Markus Stocker bio photo

Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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The United States and Canada (primarily) celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a day that sees families and/or friends gather to share a Thanksgiving meal. According to Wikipedia, “a time to express gratitude in general,” which, depending on your preferred -ism, might be gratitude for the birth of free enterprise in America. My own experience of American Thanksgiving is, I’m afraid and saddened, far-off “expression of gratitude,” for it sees, I believe, two human beings with an ocean of things they could be grateful for and express but, instead, an ocean of something rules the expression of nothing. But this is a different story.

This post is about the turkey and the plastic thrown to landfills – more about the plastic – and raises a similar question as for some practices of burning natural gas and stamps: Would biodegradable plastics already be competitive with conventional plastics if goods based on conventional plastics would internalize the cost of being “permanent waste and a stress on the environment” [1]?

According to NOVA, supported by the Australian Academy of Science,

[Polyhydroxyalkanoate] PHA [used in the production of bioplastics] is significantly more expensive to produce and, as yet, it is not having any success in replacing the widespread use of traditional petrochemical plastics. Indeed, biodegradable plastic products currently on the market are from 2 to 10 times more expensive than traditional plastics. (NOVA, 2002)

Steiner argues [1] that the latent potential of bioplastics will be unlocked at the latest with rising gas prices, at $10 a gallon, something he argues is only a matter of time. Independently of the cost of crude oil, I wonder whether bioplastics might not have seen mass adoption because of failures in assigning correct prices.

Happy Black Friday shopping.

[1] Christopher Steiner. $20 Per Gallon (2009). First edition. Grand Central Publishing, New York.