Although critics have pointed to the use of genetically modified corn in the PLA feedstock, as always, TreeHuggers should be mindful of the tradeoffs. Step one, make it practical. Step two, seek life cycle perfection. Examples abound. Take Tantalum for example. Some of this rare inert metal's ore comes from Africa. Google the topic and you'll see allegations of what Tantalum ore (coltan) mining means to conservation, social stability, and human rights there. The analogy is direct and simple. Peviously you could not own a handheld electronics device of any kind that does not rely on tantalum for capacitor functionality. Alternatives are under development, but until then you won't be canceling your cell subscription right? There's more. Got some body piecings? You could even be wearing it. Been to see a surgeon? Those surgery tools are likely made from it. Tradeoffs. OK now: back to our story.
Less than two years following Sony's lead, corn based polymer has captured the attention of designers in several industries. Versace, taken by corn plastic's ability to mimic wool, cotton or silk, has begun weaving apparel out of NatureWorks' Ingeo fibers. Smaller fashion designers have accepted Ingeo as well. Families are now eating Del Monte fruits and vegetables from corn plastic containers, drinking Biota water from corn plastic bottles and soda at McDonald's out of corn cups. Fujitsu Ltd. in a tie-up with Toray Industries Inc. has developed nonflammable, vegetable and petroleum-based plastics for its laptop personal computers. NEC Corp. said that a new technology, jointly developed with Unitica Ltd., blends the vegetable plastic with kenaf fiber to increase the material's heat resistance.
Overall sales of the PLA based plastic were reported up 60% last year. ALthough still more expensive than tradtiional engineered plastics, we can surmise that the continued upward march of oil and natural gas, both important feedstocks for petro-plastics, will put PLA plastic in a more favorable light. Combining this trend with the European and Japanese regulations that are slowly pushing toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium out of the electronics design palatte, TreeHugger thinks that the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) ideal has a hope for success in the electronics field.