Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Future is in Bio-Plastics

Cargill's efforts to develop a chemical business based on renewable resources such as corn and soybeans get page 1 treatment in today's U.S. edition of the Wall Street Journal. (A Bio-Plastics Revival
Makes Gains at Cargill
; is subscription required).

"High oil prices have bolstered the economic rationale for making plastics, foam and lubricants from plants. With a growing focus on bio-products, consumers could soon see 'vegetarian' car seats, sofas and surfboards," according to the WSJ.
Although most petroleum-based chemicals remain substantially cheaper, high oil prices have bolstered the economic rationale for making plastics, foam and lubricants from plants grown in the Midwest.

The article highlights a sofa made with soy-based foam.
Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co. is replacing some of the petrochemicals it uses to manufacture polyurethane foam with a Cargill soybean compound. The Hickory, N.C., foam maker turned to Cargill after its chemicals suppliers boosted prices about 50% in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "We now realize that in everyday life we have to not depend on petrochemicals," says Bobby W. Bush, a Hickory Springs vice president. A sofa stuffed with soy-foam Retailer Crate & Barrel is beginning to sell a sofa stuffed with Hickory Springs' foam. The Lockport sofa, which is aimed at "green" consumers, has a prize location on its store floors.


Arun Sinha said...

This is good news. The construction industry already uses vegetable fibers in some kinds of tiles and manufactured woods. It makes sense that other industries would use plants instead of petroleum-based products, too.

One downside is that if the trend gains momentum, crop prices will probably rise. As they have for corn.

David said...

Arun, would the reduced use of petroleum products have an downward effect on the price of other products that would offset the rising cost of crop prices?

For example, reduced feedstock prices could lower the cost of fertizlers, and the cost of producing and transporting crops would also fall if the price of fuel dropped, too.

Bad news for those at the bottom of the economic pile, who would feel the impact of rising food prices most acutely, but potentially a lift for the global economy?

Bonita said...

Keep up the good work.