With the new reality of $70 (US) crude oil, the plastics industries are turning to corn and fast-growing switchgrass to manufacture everything from carpet to car parts. Bio-degradable and reusable shopping bags made of corn will break down in a landfill — or home composter — within four to 12 weeks. These BioBags cost Canadian Mountain Equipment Co-op several times more than conventional plastic bags, but they allow the outdoors company to minimize their environmental impact. Giant conglomerates such as DuPont and Archer Daniels are looking to reduce their oil consumption and this is great news for farmers. . . Click read more for full coverage — Submitted by Cindy (Good News Network user name: carb101)

In the last quarter century, the low cost of oil has made it difficult for any alternatives to gain a foothold in the marketplace. Now, plant-based polymers are poised to be an important feedstock for the future of plastics-based industries.

“The same carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms in oil are in plants,” says Maurice Bitran, director of research and innovation with Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture. “Oil is just plants that were under the ground for millions of years. The idea is you can save those millions of years and go directly to the plants,” adds Bitran. “Given that the cost of energy and the environmental imperatives are increasing, the research that has been done is starting to pay some dividends.”

In March, Archer Daniels announced that it would build a commercial plant in Clinton, Iowa, that would produce 45,000 tons of natural plastics annually beginning in 2008.

Read what DuPont and British Petroleum are up to in this emerging field of eco-plastics. Full story here.

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