5 weird materials that could replace plastic


EXCERPT: Plastic is a wonder. It's malleable, so it can be molded into a variety of useful objects — from bottles to bags to medical supplies. At the same time, it's also durable and can resist wear and tear. Indeed, since synthetic plastic was first invented back in 1907, the world hasn't been able to get enough of the stuff. According to one study, we've manufactured enough plastic since World War II to coat the entire globe in a layer of saran wrap.

The problem, of course, is that for all its benefits, plastic is pretty rough on the environment. A single plastic bottle, when tossed into a landfill, could take at least 500 years to show signs of decay. And those styrofoam packing peanuts that make sure your packages arrive unharmed? Those will sit around for one million years. That's a bummer, but even worse is that a lot of our discarded plastic doesn't wind up in a landfill at all. Instead, it lands in the ocean, with one study suggesting as much as 8 million metric tons of plastic found its way to the ocean in 2010. That's "five plastic bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world," says Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor at the University of Georgia and an author on the study.

Okay, enough doom and gloom. Here's the good news: Scientists know this is a problem, and are working hard to find a solution. Here are a few recent attempts....

MORE: http://theweek.com/articles/705421/5-wei...ce-plastic

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