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Oceans full of plastic waste are the reality. Can biodegradable plastics safe us?

Within a couple of years, Fridays for Future turned from an obscure assembly of school kids to a global political phenomenon and into a brand worth millions (here). While the movement led by Greta Thunberg focuses very much on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change, one big environmental problem tends to get underreported: plastic waste.

The occasional whale washed ashore full of plastic garbage makes for terrible pictures. But that could not stop the wave of plastic that reaches the sea. Increasing living standards in emerging economies – especially in Asia – and a lack of oversight and institutions are responsible for 8 million tons of plastic making its way into the oceans every year. And it seems that the problem of microplastics has been underrated up until recently (here).

As plastic is convenient and cheap, there is no end of its use in sight. Innovation must come to the rescue. Luckily scientists all over the world are working on solutions that entail biodegradable plastic. Here a stat for one field where lignin, a side product of pulp production is used:


Patents in this one section of biodegradable plastics alone are up 5 times! As I strongly believe that technology will be all important to save the big environmental questions of our time, I will post more of these kind of stats from the global patent data bases in the future. Green tech will boom in the 2020s.