Episode 189: Do you ever worry about the environmental impact of all the plastic we use?
Do you ever worry about the environmental impact of all the plastic we use? On this week’s Energy Bite, Daniel Posen, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.
- “Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health” by Jessica A Knoblauch, Scientific American
- “Sustainability assessments of bio-based polymers” by Hottle et al.
- Plastics and Environmental Sustainability by Anthony L. Andrady
Do you ever worry about the environmental impact of all the plastic we use?
HOST: Do you ever worry about the environmental impact of all the plastic we use? On this week’s Energy Bite, Daniel Posen, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.
DANIEL: Every year, Americans buy products containing nearly 100 billion pounds of plastic. These plastics pose an environmental challenge throughout their life, from manufacturing to use and disposal. The question is – what can we do about it? One place to start is what plastics are made from. For example, instead of making plastics from crude oil and natural gas, we can start making them from renewable materials, like corn or the plant, switchgrass. In addition, if the energy used to make plastics came from renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, there would be less impact on the environment. In our research, we wanted to figure out what is best for the environment.
HOST: So, what did you find out?
DANIEL: Powering existing plastic-manufacturing facilities with renewable energy results in lower emissions and costs less than switching to the newer plant-based plastics. That being said, it probably makes sense to continue developing plant-based plastics. These plastics can have other advantages; for example, some plant-based plastics are biodegradable and reduce plastic waste. As a result, it’s hard to say what’s best because of the many ways plastics impact the environment.
HOST: Would you pay more for a product made from plant-based plastics? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.