The “green plastic” deception

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

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