Biodegradable plastic is a temporary solution. We cannot be callous about our approach to waste of any form. A simple change in daily behavior can lead to formidable impact. For example, taking a shopping bag can reduce a huge amount of the plastic waste, using ceramic mugs or bottles for drinks whenever possible can reduce burden on natural resources. We always complain that people do not change their habits but we will have to.
A great journey from 1994 to 2012. The continuous R&D by this company shows their strengths in bringing out the best to us. This area of R&D if focused by all major multinational companies for improving their packaging needs then very soon we will get a right low cost solution.
That's just it, though. Ceramic mugs are NOT an alternative, not in the use cases where plastic or paper cups or utensils are used.
People do use ceramic mugs, when there's no problem washing them and putting them away. Such as, at home or in restaurants. People use throw-away dishes and utensiles when the cost of washing and reusing the utensiles is too high. Street vendors, for instance. Do you really expect concession stands or roach coaches to have dishwashing pacilities? Or do you really expect people to carry dishes, cups, and utensiles with them, when they go to a concession stand, and then carry the dirty dishes home for washing?
Take the case of milk bottles and soda bottles. They also used to be returnable, but there were costs associated with that too. People often didn't return them, which caused a problem, and they had to be sanitized and recylced when they were returned, which itself wasn't free. Then came non-returnable glass bottles. Not much better. They are recycled, when not just thrown out in the trash, much as plastic can be. But they're heavier and cost more all around (transportation, etc.).
So all of this is a balancing act. To vilify plastic, in a vacuum, just doesn't make any sense.
alternative to plastic cup - a ceramic mug you use many times over.
alternative to disposable plastic bottle - any form of bottle that you refill
The primary shift is not in the material used but in the model for distribution of the stuff in the container ie locally refill rather than have new ones sent from far away each time in a "use once then throw away" container
It goes without saying that whatever is manufactured out of renewable material, typically stuff that can also be used for food, instead of being made from another non-renewable source, such as oil, will require more of that reneable material to be produced than previously.
SOMETHING has to be used instead of the oil.
I'm not sure I understand why Lloyd Alter should assume that this translates to less food on the table.
Also, what is the PRACTICAL alternative to having biodegradable plastics, made from renewable materials, for such throw-away applications like plastic cups and bottles? Glass? How long does that take to degrade? Paper or carboard? How many trees do we need to harvest for that?
Everything in nature comes at a price. Even food for animals in the wild comes at a price, to some other plant or animal. Even recylcing of non-degradable objects comes at a price. All we're doing here is trying to lower the overall price.