In their May 2009 issue, Metropolis Magazine sat down with Material ConneXion’s Dr. Andrew Dent for a briefing on the new wave of bioplastics and some tips on how designers can incorporate these plant-based alternatives into their furniture and products. Here’s an except from the article:
And high cost and low performance aren’t the only obstacles bioplastics have to overcome. Right now, manufacturing them is more energy intensive than making synthetics; even though bioplastics have a net-zero carbon footprint as a material, their production still creates a surfeit of CO². Plus, bioplastics pose a recycling problem. While they could be recycled in theory, the infrastructure to do so is not in place—and bioplastics will contaminate the existing recycling stream. Finally, there are ethical questions about PLA: Is it responsible to make grocery bags and baby wipes out of corn when nearly a billion people worldwide are starving?
Dr. Dent is optomistic that the industry can address these challenges. But what role do we as industrial designers play in fueling this change? How do we advocate for these new materials within our companies or recommend them to our clients? How do we balance our responsibilities to the user, the client and our planet?