Your uncool, non-biodegradable, guilt-inducing ‘polybag’, could soon be made from plants, and suddenly become infinitely recyclable, bio-degradable and guilt-free. Using organic catalysts, scientists at IBM’s Almaden Research Center and Stanford University have discovered a sustainable and energy-efficient way of synthesizing plastics from plant material.
The resulting plant plastics can be recycled almost without end, most unlike petroleum-based plastics that are created with metal oxide catalysts. This approach can also provide a solution for our current plastic woes, helping us properly recycle and reuse it. IBM is currently working with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, finding new ways to recycle food and beverage containers, those ubiquitous pollutants.
The applications are endless, and Chandrasekhar ‘Spike’ Narayan, a manager of science and technology at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, says “We are really starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with it”. A possible use is in human medicine, where plant plastics can be engineered to be "biocompatible", improving the effect and duration of specially targeted drugs, such as immunosuppressive and cancer medicines. Thanks, IBM and Stanford! I’m feeling greener, and immeasurably relieved for the plastic users and producers out there.