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Could Bioplastics Be the Way of the Future?


Right now, chances are pretty good that you're surrounded by plastic. A plastic keyboard, plastic water bottle, the plastic fixtures in your car, perhaps even a plastic case on your phone. There's no denying that plastics are an integral part of our society, but they're also a huge factor in a major environmental disaster that's becoming increasingly apparent in our oceans and waterways. 

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with David Grewell, Director of the Center for Bioplastics at Iowa State University, about the future of plastics and how technology might make them more environmentally friendly. Carolyn Raffensperger, Chair of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, also joins the conversation.

Grewell's interest in bioplastics research was born out of concern about the environmental impact of conventional plastic.

"I saw more and more of these images that everybody sees on TV and on the cover of magazines of plastics floating in the ocean, and now we're hearing more and more about these microplastics that get into the water systems and get into our fresh water," Grewell says.

The bio-based plastics being developed by the Center for Bioplastics are one step towards a more sustainable future, but Grewell also emphasizes the importance of the 'four Rs' in thinking about our environmental impact.

"It can't be just one solution," Grewell says. "It's not going to be just the recycling, it's going to be the reuse, repurpose, being renewable."

Raffensperger hopes that more funding can go into research like Grewell's.

"We need to put public dollars into sustainability and look for those materials that are going to let us live lightly on the planet," Raffensperger says.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.