Monday, August 04, 2008

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, BUT WHAT ABOUT PLASTICS?


Is it possible to create materials just as strong as plastics, but that are also biodegradable? This is the great garbage question – and all this time I thought it was who’s going to take it out! Who knew? Daniel H. Wilson, host of The History Channel’s new show The Works. During the show’s first episode, which aired July 24, Daniel dissects this question as part of a larger episode on the inner workings of Garbage.

Based on the concept that everyday life is actually made up of incredibly complex systems, The Works explores the history and intricacies behind a variety of topics usually taken for granted because of their seamless integration into our lives. Think steel, powertools, sneakers, and beer (well, maybe not beer).

Having just seen WALL-E – Pixar’s animated movie about a trash-compacting robot mistakenly left behind after mankind has abandoned Earth due to the amount of garbage that’s accumulated – you can imagine my simultaneous intrigue and trepidation about watching this particular episode. (Especially upon learning that many of the plush, green parks we enjoy are actually former landfills). The most astonishing fact of all, however, is that the world’s largest pile of trash is floating in the Pacific Ocean.


Labeled the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this region covers an area over twice the size of Texas and contains over 100 million tons of free flowing trash, 90 percent of which is plastic. But, fear not, companies like our very own client, Novomer (one of the companies profiled in this episode), have currently found ways to turn pollution into biodegradable plastic.

Novomer is a materials company pioneering a family of high-performance, biodegradable plastics, polymers and other chemicals from renewable substances.

The company’s catalyst technology enables the production of polymers and plastics from renewable feedstocks, and the team envisions a day when they’ll be able to siphon carbon dioxide from smoke stacks to make commercial volumes of durable plastics that are able to decompose.

In the wake of such inventive green technology companies like Novomer are producing, I choose to remain hopeful about the state of our garbage-filled planet. But, if all else fails, I’m sure I could find some joy in cruising around on reclining chairs in space.

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