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Corn-Based Plastic cheaper than oil PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2005 15:15

I think this is important, as non-petroleum based and other renewable products start passing non-renewables then suddenly the demand starts to rise, which kicks in economies of scale that make the price difference even higher. This article is one of the first I've seen with that potential.

From the LA times via Ezra Klein, via Sustainablog news that Cargill's corn-based plastic has dropped in price:

When Cargill launched its factory in 2002, its pellets were far more expensive than equivalent material made from oil. Wild Oats Markets, an early customer, paid 50% more for takeout containers made from the bio-plastic.

But over the last two years, the Cargill plant has gotten more efficient — and oil prices have soared.

The result: The "corn-tainers" in the deli now cost Wild Oats 5% less than traditional plastic, Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said.

The discussion developing on this is interesting, too. Yes, the process is not oil-free, as the fertilizer used to grow the corn is still petroleum-based. But there's considerably less oil that goes into this process vs. traditional plastics. I think commenter Allen K. brings up an interesting parallel as he compares this to biodiesel (and he doesn't seem impressed by either), but not necessarily in the sense he means. I have to wonder if these kinds of products will only build the myth that we can farm our way out of the consequences of peak oil. Not likely, and not without starving a lot of people. I don't see why, though, the waste biomass from corn farming and other forms of agriculture couldn't be devoted to these kinds of developments.

I'd be interested in hearing about any other examples of renewables coming out cheaper than non-renewables even without counting the externalities