Plastic Made from Oranges and Corn

Oranges, or more specifically, their peels may be used to make plastic. Actually the peels of any citrus fruit can be used including grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes, and others. This is great news. Plastics are polymers made from petroleum-based resources, which are non-renewable. On the other hand, citrus peels are a renewable resource.

Chemists at Cornell University have developed a catalyst that enables the limonene in orange peel and other citrus oils to react with carbon dioxide to create a polymer, which has been dubbed polylimonene carbonate.

This new polymer has many properties that are similar to polystyrene aka Styrofoam, the trademark name for it. Another advantage of this new polymer is that it locks up carbon dioxide, a contributing factor to global warming.

And now for corn...

Spectragraphics Label Systems, a company that has been making labels for more than 25 years, has developed a process to make labels from corn, yes--the kind we eat. Most labels and packaging materials are made from our old friend petroleum. Corn, like oranges of course, is a renewable resource.

The labels are made from a type of “plastic” known as PLA (Polylactide Polymers) and are manufactured by SLS under the trademark name NatureWorks. PLAs use carbohydrate sugars from crop plants such as corn to produce environmentally friendly “plastic” materials.

What makes this product even better is that the materials disintegrate after 60 days when disposed of in a composting facility (um…not quite sure what this refers to but it sounds good, right?).

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