In Mike Nichols’ 1967 classic “The Graduate”, Dustin Hoffman’s character gets “just one word” of advice: “plastics.” It was a sign of the times; the groundbreaking technology was changing everything from consumer goods to space equipment.
Today, a new generation of materials is looking to graduate to the status of plastic. The problem with plastic is its lifecycle. Plastic production is dependent on oil; therefore, the supply chain is susceptible to the vulgarities of economics and geopolitics. Plastic disposal often involves landfills, which come at an astounding expense. The race is on for a greener, cheaper, and more profitable alternative. Scientific drama will unfold, fortunes will be made and lost, and in the end, plastic will take its place among lead, iron and slate as just another material. Algae-based, fungal-based, mineral-based and cellulosic alternative are all in the race.
Paper byproduct Arboform looks like plastic and even employs injection-molding - just like plastic.
"The lignin is not needed in papermaking, however. Our colleagues mix that lignin with fine natural fibers made of wood, hemp or flax and natural additives such as wax. From this, they produce plastic granulate that can be melted and injection-moulded."
The final product can resemble highly polished wood or have a more matted finish and look like the plastic used in most household items.
The transition from Plastic is a saga worth watching, I look forward to the next “New New”.
Note: Greensulate also looks promising.