This weeks show (Sundance Channel 9pm Tue) introduces us to a new concept, Cradle to Cradle. Simply put, much of the products we use come from the ‘Cradle’ of the planet in the form of natural but not renewable or sustainable resources such as hydrocarbons, and end up in the ‘Grave’ of the planets landfills. Cradle to Cradle is to use renewable resources, and use them in such a way that when the product reaches the end of its useful life the component parts can once again return to their original raw material.

As Frederic Scheer (CEO of Cereplast) points out, plastic is a wonder material, and it’s uses are almost endless, but what happens to it when it has reached the end of its useful life? In the case of a supermarket plastic bag, the useful life may be 30 minutes, or however long it takes you to get your groceries home. The next step for the bag is the landfill. Fifty or a hundred years from now, that bag is still there. From plastic bags to entire motor cars, there is a sustainable answer.

Paper or Plastic features three people that are embracing the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ concept, and making a great name for themselves in the process. Jay Bolus, who helped develop McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry’s “Cradle to Cradle” benchmarking methodology. “Cradle to Cradle” certification is a tool to evaluate the impact chemicals and materials have on human and environmental health throughout their lifecycles. Jay, MBDC, and the United States Postal Service have teamed up to reduce the USPS’ environmental footprint by eliminating toxic inks, adhesives, and coatings from its packaging.

Also from MBDC we get to meet the design team for the concept Ford Model U. A car designed to be eco-friendly and ‘cradle to cradle’. Non Polluting the Model U uses hydrogen as its fuel. All of the components use low Eco impact materials, and are fully recyclable.

Cereplast is a company with a vision, they are manufacturing the raw materials for a biodegradable plastic. A frightening statistic is that each year the US alone disposes of 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, and these all end up in the landfill. Frederic Scheer (CEO) has a solution, using corn, starches, and other renewable and non toxic materials he creates biodegradable plastic. Depending on the end product it will biodegrade to ‘worm food’ within 60-180 days.

I had the opportunity to do a short interview with this visionary.

You produce an eco friendly version of plastic. Where did you get the initial idea from?
As a 15-year veteran in the bio-plastic industry, I could see that there was a trend toward biodegradable and compostable plastic products across many industries, especially in North America. Cereplast, which is the combination of the words “cereal” and “plastic” was born from that belief.
What is the average ‘degrade’ time back to its basic components?
Cereplast resin is certified compostable and biodegradable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (, which means it “returns to earth” in 180 days or less when placed in an industrial compost facility.  The Cereplast resin meets the ASTM D6400 test method standard for biodegradability and compostability.  Cereplast does encourage composting of products made of its resin.     
In Big Ideas For A Small Planet, there are shots of Cups, Plates, and Takeout containers. Could your product be used for larger items? A replacement for the product used to cushion items like TV’s and Stereo components that currently come with masses of Styrofoam.
Yes. Products of all forms are very likely future applications of Cereplast resins, not just food service packaging. Our future markets extend beyond food service to include medical device, automotive, consumer electronics, and cosmetics among others.
How do manufacturing costs compare to more traditional materials?
In many cases, the cost of the Cereplast resin is comparable to traditional plastic resins.  Since Cereplast is starch-based rather than petroleum-based, the cost is not subject to fluctuation based on the price of fossil fuels. The manufacturing process for Cereplast resins takes place at a lower heat than that required for manufacturing with traditional plastics, further bringing down manufacturing costs.
Obviously your products will biodegrade, but can you also recycle it? Is it possible to take used cups/plates etc, and manipulate them back into usable raw material?
Products made from the Cereplast resin are best suited for placement in compost, where they will break down and return to the soil.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet is a great show, and well worth the 30 minute investment. If you can not get the Sundance Channel on your cable network, you can pick up most of the segments on their web page.

Simon Barrett


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