Friday, October 19, 2012

Convenience and sustainability.

From the cool file. Plastic is evil right? All those fossil fuels being dug up and used to pollute and kill birds and cute little baby seals? Pity it can be such a convenient material.
How about, instead of digging up all that oil and using it to make plastic, we engineer some bacteria  to produce ethylene and use that to make all our plastics?

The problem with using oil to get the ethylene for plastics, apart from the general littering and it's knock on effects on the environment, is that we are reintroducing a lot of extra carbon into the atmosphere that would otherwise be locked up underground. Which is where it should be if we want our children to live in a world that vaguely resembles the one we have. Using GE bacteria to produce plastics doesn't involve the introduction of any more carbon into the cycle - it both takes up carbon from the cycle and means that we would have to use less of the liquefied dead dinosaurs than we currently do.

And as they rightly point out, there are solutions (probably not perfect - very few things are). We can dispose of the plastics by feeding it to the mushrooms that eat plastic. A bit of tinkering and we can probably make those work even better as well. Convenience and sustainability all in one nice little package. Unless of course the GE is to inherently evil for you.

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