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Innovation never sleeps — when faced with challenges adaptation naturally occurs. What makes humans "the best"? Well, we are the best at problem solving and tool making. What makes humans "the worst"? Well, we are not good at making green tools — the cost of our environmental destruction makes us the most harmful critter on Earth. Products that benefit our planet will survive, the rest will be victims of our current 6th mass extinction — The Anthropocene — whoops!
As society evolves towards a future that's free of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, smart innovation is currently constructing solid foundations for our green energy bridge. Each day a tiny brick of knowledge is added — innovation. Creating materials that don't require fossil fuels will provide an opportunity to eliminate dirty competition in the free market and build a smart foundation to a green economy and culture. It's time to move on and many are moving, delivering the green tools we will need.
As green energy innovates, the cost of green materials will decrease as a function of energy required for manufacturing. This innovation will make fossil-fuels-based materials too expensive to compete. Just as green energy will eliminate dirty energy, green materials will eliminate dirty materials.
One material I want to be eliminated is plastic created from fossil fuels! As a designer, having freedom of choice makes green outcomes much easier to deliver. Currently, there are many working on replacing traditional plastic — society needs to eliminate products that don't abide by a smart lifecycle, dumping plastic in our oceans must end.
There are many focusing on the bioplastic market — plastic can be used in many applications, if we crunch some math, food packing seems to be a big part of everyone's daily "dirty consumption". In food packaging, plastic was a great innovation over its traditional competitors, but its toxic legacy and lifecycle harm our planet. Bioplastics are getting set to compete with dirty plastic — spoilers: the winner will be green materials, they will be cheaper too.
With innovation comes new questions and concerns. The food industry loves innovation and it seems that a few may converge — bioplastic and biosecurity. Being able to replace dirty plastic with "green" bioplastic is the goal, but are we creating new problems by using new nanomaterials for bacterial identification, thermal sensing, and pH indication? Are we making stuff too complex? Can smart bioplastic benefit the consumer? Will it pollute our environment worse than dirty plastic?
Do we need smart bioplastic? It would make food safer, yes, but with food safety regulations it seems delivering safe food is possible. With some corporations that knowingly violate food safety law, this new packing safety might assist and help the consumer. Can a shifty food business model survive? Will a shifty food industry lobby against smart bioplastic?
How do smart bioplastics breakdown in the environment? Well, I don't know — I have blogged a few times about the safety issues with respect to nanomaterials. I can see the value of some applications, but are we ignorantly creating "smart pollution"*? If there is such a product as green-smart-bioplastic, it will be a huge game changer in the food packaging industry, but is "ordinary" bioplastic good enough for the job?
Given most of us consume products with manufactured packaging, having choices of green materials that help reduce dirty materials is the goal. With so many products that use dirty plastic, having an alternative green material that is an order-of-magnitude cheaper will be an extra nail in the coffin for dirty and toxic fossil fuels based plastics. Eliminating fossil fuels based plastic is a massive opportunity in the market, as such, it will also make a huge dent in the economies of scale of traditional fossil fuels markets. Seems fossil fuels and nuclear energy will also be victims of the 6th mass extinction.
* — Remember, there is no such thing as smart pollution.