Most Americans don’t know plastic is made from oil

Thursday, 26 April, 2007

A nationwide survey in the US in April found that 72% of the American public does not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products and 40% believes it will biodegrade.

The survey was conducted by national online market research firm InsightExpress for Telles, a company using bioscience to provide clean solutions for plastics, fuels and chemicals and Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest agricultural processors and the world leader in BioEnergy.

The results showed that very few people realise that plastics are made from oil, further contributing to the problems of energy dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and depleting resources.

Almost 10% of US oil consumption is in fact used to make plastic.

The survey also revealed a misunderstanding about biodegradability of plastic. More than 40% of respondents believe that plastic will biodegrade underground, in home compost, in landfills, or in the ocean.

"Everyone knows about our country's unhealthy reliance on oil and the impact that petroleum use has on climate change," said Jim Barber, President and CEO, Metabolix, which has developed a brand of fully biodegradable Natural Plastics.

"Similarly, people see a lot of plastic waste in the form of litter. But the fact that so many people are unaware that plastic is made from oil and that it will persist in the environment for thousands of years, shows the need for education about the impact of plastic on the environment and the various alternatives made from renewable resources."

Americans also have a much more optimistic view of the country's recycling efforts than is supported by the facts. On average, those surveyed believe nearly 40% of plastic is recycled, when that figure is less than 6%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

However, when informed that plastic is made from oil and that it never biodegrades, half of the surveyed Americans indicated they would be willing to pay a premium for natural, biodegradable plastic.

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