IBM and Stanford pioneer new non-toxic biodegradable plastic technique

IBM and Stanford University’s Department of Chemistry have been collaborating to develop a sustainable, and cheap, biodegradable plastic. The collaboration, which leverages IBM’s cognitive computing capability, recently bore fruit, with the development of a non-toxic catalytic process that converts plant material into useful plastics – potentially heralding a new era in which plastics can biodegrade in a non-environmentally harmful manner.

The usefulness of plastic in a range of circumstances, from carrying goods to protecting products, is reflected in its heavy use; plastic is relatively cost effective, assuming externalities are not factored into the price. The large scale use of plastic, and cradle to the grave economic model it serves, are creating problems within the natural environment – with waste, some of which is toxic or harmful, piling up. One of the problems with the material is that it takes centuries to biodegrade, and, in many instances, becomes toxic in new ways when it breaks up the smaller and smaller particles.

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