The “green plastic” deception

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Manufacturing plastic in petrochemical factories consumes about 270 million tons of oil and gas every year worldwide. The eco community has long held that there was a greener, more environmentally friendly source of plastic-like material: We could grow it, in the form of corn cellulose or fibers in other organic crops. But the bioscience giants like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and Cargill found that their efforts to produce an organic plastic substitute from converted plant sugars were too difficult and the profit margins too low to continue. So now the genetic whizbangers, instead of finding another substance to replace plastic, are growing man-made plastic fibers inside plants and even bacteria, in much the same way they are “growing” innoculations inside potatoes.

There’s a big problem with this approach, it seems, according to the latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The article, written by two bioengineers involved in developing these pseudo “green plastic” technologies, suggests that even plant-sourced bioengineered plastics emit much more methane and carbon dioxide when they biodegrade than do organic materials, and such plastics still require fossil-fuelled machinery to be extracted from the host plants.

Hey, but if it’s profitable, expect to be sold a green bill of goods with that next liter bottle of Coke.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate