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Public May Not Be Ready for Plastic Alternatives

Excerpt from “Eat Your Food, and the Package Too”, National Geographic,, Elizabeth Royte, July 17, 2019

Until systems and people are in sync, a great deal of compostable packaging will end up in landfills, where it can generate greenhouse gases. If compostables mistakenly land in recycling plants—many plant-based plastics resemble their oil-based cousins—they’re considered a contaminant. And if they drift into the ocean? Compostable plastics are designed to degrade at temperatures around 135°F and with exposure to ultraviolet light. Since degradables are heavier than oil-based plastics, they are likely to sink and linger for many years.

Considering these challenges, some designers prefer to stick with plastics, since recycling systems are, in the developed world at least, already established. More than thirty different plastics are currently used in packaging, but some innovators are on the hunt for a single polymer group, a super-plastic that meets a multitude of performance requirements, is affordable for manufacturers, demands few changes in machinery, is widely accepted by municipal recycling systems, and easily converted into new packaging. But so far this product remains elusive.

Read the full article on or in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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