Posted by: shoji | May 21, 2008

Biodegradable does not mean “green”

This CNN/Money article (The high cost of a green dream – May. 21, 2008) is about a 30-something couple in DC building a “green home”. The point of the story was a money makeover, but this excerpt caught my attention:

Seth had planned to install energy-efficient polyethylene tubing called PEX, but the plumbers who could work with the material would be too expensive. The couple had to settle for nonbiodegradable plastic pipes instead.

Though it doesn’t say it, it is somewhat implied by the context that “biodegradable plastic pipes” would be preferable to the nonbiodegradable kind. I beg to differ: who wants their pipes to degrade?

Let’s not equate “green” with biodegradable. There is great value in lasting, durable goods.



  1. Note: I’ve edited this comment b/c it was Comment Spam. However, I think the excerpt below is fitting for my blog in that it puts forth a potential “unintended consequence” of switching to corn starch-based plastic bags from typical petro-based plastic bags.

    Normal non biodegradable plastic bags takes more than 500 years to degrade and you can still find some pieces of it somewhere in the environment.

    Also starch based products can comprise of genetically modified crops (GM Crops) which contains PLA the substitutes can increase emissions of greenhouse gases on landfill sites and releases Methane which is 23 times more damaging than the C02 that Al Goreites have demonized and cannot be recycled in Britain. See The Guardian reported on Saturday on “Corn starch based material can damage the environment”;

  2. Yes, I was also blown away the other day when I heard some of the ethanol stats:

    1) An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels

    2) about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol.

    Can you image how much energy and corn fields we need to have to keep up with our 20 million gallons a day? Mind boggling.

    No wonder we are have food shortages around the world.

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