Plastic makes our world go round, or it so seems. It would be near impossible to find an American without anything made of plastic in his or her home. All these plastic products fill our landfills though, and stay there for thousands of year. Now, a highly recycle-able plastic has been discovered, and it's called Arboform.
Arboform is made from lignin, a wood component that is not needed in the papermaking industry, mixed with fibers and natural additives such as wax. The fibers come various sources including wood, hemp, or flax. It was a developed by a group of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) in Pfinztal, Germany led by Emilia Regina Inone-Kauffmann. In the past, some car parts and other durable, non-household products have been made from bio-plastic, but Arboform is different because the sulfur content of the original bio-plastic has been reduced by 90%, making it safe to be used in household items. Not only can it now be used in household items, but especially in toys which often end up in babies mouths and therefore need to be free of any potentially harmful materials. In order to test the "recyclability" of the new bio-plastic, the scientists broke it down into tiny pieces and reprocessed it ten times over. No changes were detected in the material properties of the bio-plastic, guaranteeing it's abillity to be recycled. The German scientists hope to see it completely replace petroleum-based plastics in the future. An estimated 8% of the world's total oil production goes into plastic production, which may not be a lot, but every little bit counts.
The positive environmental impact of Arboform would be incredibly significant. Not only can a material that is included in almost everything we use be made of completely renewable resources, but it can also be recycled, decreasing the need for fossil fuels and the size of our landfills.