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Plants will be a "green" source of plastics, predict scientists

Scientists will be able to mass produce plant-based biodegradable plastic that completely degrade in landfill, new research suggests.

Plants have been used to produce plastics for some time, with plastics made from plant starches and soy protein. However, scientists have recently genetically modified a plant, Arabidoposis thaliana, so that it produces an organic plastic that is similar to polypropylene.

Petroleum-based plastics are essentially indestructible in a biological context and non-degradable.

The scientists have introduced three new proteins into the plant which work with two proteins which are normally present. These proteins make a material called polyhydroxybutyrate-co-polyhydroxyvalerate (PHBV), which is a plastic that can be used to produce plastic bags and bottles.

The new research is called The second green revolution? Production of plant-based biodegradable plastics and its author Brian Mooney, based at the University of Missouri, told MRW that new production of plastics could have a significant impact on the home and industrial composting industry.

He said: I dont think it will reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill that much but the advantage is that it will degrade completely once it gets there. It will have more of an impact if you divert it to industrial composters and put it into regular garden waste as opposed to throwing it to landfill.

The current use of plastic is truly massive and this research is at pilot stage at the minute.
The research showed that although efforts have been explored in source reduction, in most cases recycling and disposal are the main ways in which plastics are dealt with post-consumer and highlighted that a source of biodegradable plastics is an obvious alternative.

Scientists argue that plant-based plastics could reduce carbon emissions and be produced as valuable by-products in food crops grown on marginal land.

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