Ford and Heinz are testing bioplastics that use waste fiber from tomato processing, shown here in its raw form as tomato pomace, which is mostly skin. Heinz processes 2 million tons of tomatoes each year to make ketchup.
Liz, thanks. I wish I could take credit for "there is no away," but it's a quote from a radical eco-feminist in a movie I saw many years ago. I forget the details but I clearly remember the moment, because that was when I finally got the picture that the planet is a limited system and unlimited growth simply can't work. She said we needed to realize that "there is no 'away'" where trash could be thrown, unless it's off-planet in space.
You really say it so well, Ann, when you say there is no "away." It's so true. I can remember when people thought that way, that we just dispose of things and suddenly they disappear. But now we all know we're stuck with a lot of this stuff for a seemingly infinite amount of time, and we are seeing the effect of our lack of care especially in our oceans. Anything that can be done to mitigate non biodegradeable trash is a good idea. I really appreciate your coverage of this stuff. It's really cool to see what's being done.
It's a great idea by Ford and Heinz to decide to use tomato based plastics. This serves as a proper method of utilizing the resources available instead of having to buy such raw materials. Plastics in any form pose as a threat to the environment and the idea that ford recycles these plastic materials in order to come up with new component for cars is a better idea. It's a good way of being environmental friendly.
Good memory, Cabe. That's a Mexican company, Biofase, which I wrote about here http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=257242 They're still in business. I've also written about bioplastics from sugar cane trash here http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237554 and several times about the use of corn stover, or corn harvesting byproducts, as well as shrimp shells, coconut shells, and various wood pulp sources--see Related posts links at the end of this Heinz story and the Biofase story.
R&D focused on using agricultural trash or byproducts to make plastic or fuel doesn't seem to be receiving as much attention as doing the same with municipal wastes. I suspect that's because it takes more tight cooperation between (probably large) individual companies or sources of the waste and the potential users of same, and it's just less visible than municipal waste dumps or landfills. Plus there are more stakeholders in cities, and possibly more garbage, too. One effort bucking this trend is DuPont's biofuel project to use corn waste from lots and lots of farmers: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=257126
This was a good article and if I remember correctly, there was another company who was (is?) making bioplastic from avocado pits that you wrote about a year ago. I'm wondering if this trend is gaining traction in other big name companies.
Thanks, Liz. If we learned anything from the ecology studies in the 70s it was that there is no "away" where you can throw something--every ecosystem on the planet is connected. As I see it, the problem lies in assuming that cost-effectiveness, or corporate responsibility, begins and ends at an individual company's door. Sustainability programs don't make that assumption. Larger companies obviously have a larger effect on the environment in terms of more waste going to landfill if not diverted, and more emissions due to less eco-friendly manufacturing. Solving both problems by both diverting potentially harmful waste and making it into a more eco-friendly material to use in one's products should be encouraged, especially by bigger companies. Not only do they solve their own problems with such R&D, but the methods and materials that result can benefit others, either directly or by serving as a model.
I saw this story last week but didn't have time to comment (so am doing so now). I agree wholeheartedly with you, Ann. To take something already being wasted as a byproduct of an industry to make a new, eco-friendly material that can replace something that harms the environment is a great idea. The fact that two such large corporations are behind it is even better. Thanks for covering this type of thing and staying on top of the latest.
I had to laugh because I initially read the caption under the picture: Ford and Heinz are testing bioplastics as
Ford and Heinz are tasting bioplastics...I guess the power of suggestion and not enough coffee contributed to my interpretation...
While I agree that this is wonderful forward thinking R&D - I think Battar also brought up some important points which would explain why more isn't being done in these areas. Repurposing has always been a viable option that smart companies move towards, but unfortunately the lack of cost-effectiveness may out weigh the advantages at a corporate level. I am wondering if there are incentives that could help smaller companies do likewise?
Heinz didn't say what it usually does with the skins, but this 2004 article in California Agriculture, a peer-reviewed publication of the University of California http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/landingpage.cfm?article=ca.v058n01p59&fulltext=yes says "About 10% to 30% of the raw tomato weight becomes waste, part of which is hauled fresh to nearby cattle and dairy farms and sold for a token fee" where it becomes feed, and a Wikipedia article says some of the waste goes to landfill.
78RPM, thanks for that snippet from the Apple shareholder meeting. That investor group's question shows a shortsighted POV, in my opinion. In earlier, pre-sustainabililty-conscious times, large corporations were engaged in various corporate giving programs, such as charities or local booster efforts. I don't recall investors querying the usefulness of those, since it was considered a big company's duty to give back to the community in various ways. Now they also do it with sustainability programs, many of which are not hot air but quite real, and usually involve their products.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.