Corn v. Oil: Are Bioplastics a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Products?

Americans use 40 billion plastic utensils every year at cookouts, picnics, and around the home. Since traditional plastic utensils are made from oil, and almost all of them are sent to landfills where they'll take thousands of years to decompose, they're not the most sustainable way to eat.

But utensils made from bioplastic - a new kind of plastic made from corn, rice, or other organic material, can compost back to nature in just 180 days and could grow into a $5 billion dollar worldwide market by 2016.

"The products we are making are American products, made with American workers, with feedstock coming from our country," said Frederic Scheer, owner of Cereplast, a bioplastic manufacturer located in Indiana. "We have created about 70 green jobs, and we anticipate to create even more."

However bioplastics may have a downside that reduces their green allure. A recent study found quick decomposition of bioplastics could lead to methane emissions - a powerful greenhouse gas. "If it decomposes in less than two years, then that methane all goes to the environment, and probably does more harm than good," said Morton Barlaz, of North Carolina State University.

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