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Sustainability Quiz 49: Seaweed Plastic

Sustainability Quiz 49: Seaweed Plastic

Sustainability Quiz 49. Despite many promising leads, compostable plant based, zero fossil fuel plastics have been pretty much impossible. Until now

Ironically, you can make plastic of pretty much anything - and claim it as such, even if it's only a small part of the actual finished product. Wonder-product seaweed, first touted as a solution to methane belching cows, is now in the final stages of development in many countries like Israel, the UK, USA, Australia, as a powerful, easily workable replacement for fossil fuel plastic bags and film.

Homes use a lot of plastic film, but business - and some agriculture, uses an incredible amount. New seaweed plastic holds what secret that makes it an excellent future plastics material?
     It’s naturally wavy
     Sequestering up to 20 x more CO2
     Natural polymers
     Seaweed stops cows farting

Thin clear plastic - we use mountains of it

Plastic film is used for countless home, office and business uses, but generally only for a short period of time. It is used to protect items from moisture and dust and includes everyday items such as plastic bags and shrinkwrap. Businesses that use large quantities of plastic bags and shrink-wrap are typically warehouse or distribution centres, industrial plants and large retail stores. 

Problem is that in solving our short term problem, we are trashing the planet as billions of tons of plastic film and bags end up in landfill. 

Seaweed plastic is made by closely mimicing fossil fuel plastic

Many labs around the world, including CSIRO in Australia, have been investigating the potential of seaweed and algae as the base for a completely environmentally friendly plastic film or bag. Until now, farming seaweed and making plastic at scale hasn't been feasible, but that's all changing. 

Seaweed is plentiful and sequesters carbon

Seaweed is very easy to farm without the need for any fertilizers, pesticides or water. It literally can be farmed in the open ocean, with its own water source. Seaweed also  sequesters an incredible amount of carbon - about 20 times more carbon than a tree -  and that's very attractive. Now, many different individuals, research houses and universities around the world are developing bioplastic polymers derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed. These can be bred in salty seawater without impinging on scarce freshwater resources.

The seaweed munching microorganisms produce a tough biodegradable polymer that produces zero toxic waste and recycles into organic waste. And potentially can fit straight into current fossil fuel based operations for scale. 

What can you do?

Whatever a bag or film is made out of, single use for only a few seconds or minutes is ssomething everyone needs to avoid - even if the end product breaks down quickly. The resources used to make any single use plastic, paper, glass packaging is enormous, so avoid using any wherever you can. 

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