We often get inquiries about environmentally advantaged plastic products. 'Where can I find item "X" made with recycled plastic, compostable plastic, biopolymers, less toxic material, etc'. Over the last year, TreeHugger has posted on over 50 products offerings related to polylactic acid (PLA), a biopolymer originating from corn sugar fermentation (search our archives with the string "PLA" for links). Two other biopolymers with a much longer commercial history are latex rubber and nylon-11 (N-11 is made from a by-product of castor bean oil). The latter two are applied in only a small fraction of the millions of polymer products in global commerce. The good news is that more biopolymers are approaching commercial viability for a long list of familiar and unfamiliar objects. For example, DuPont expects to begin production in 2007 of new high-performance thermoplastic resins and elastomer products made from two of its latest bio-based materials.
The two biopolymers "will be targeted for automotive, electrical/electronic and other industrial markets. Corn-based Sorona(R) polymer for industrial applications will be commercially available mid-2007; and the renewably sourced Hytrel(R) grades will be available in late 2007". Dupont estimates that the use of corn-based feedstock requires approximately 40 percent less energy to produce than a petrochemical-based version of these two polymers.