By now many of us are probably aware that plastic is not good for the environment. This is why many are encouraged to not use plastic bags when buying things from the supermarket, and instead use reusable cloth bags that are more environmentally friendly. That being said, this doesn’t mean that plastic is useless or bad.
Plastic is required by many industries and in many products, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be improved upon. This is something that Ricoh is attempting to do with PLAiR, a new plastic-like material that’s made out of plants and air. Made from a polylactic acid sheet, which in turn was made using plant starch and sugar, and combined with air, it results in a foam that consists of bubbles tens of microns in diameter.
The foam’s expansion rate can actually be adjusted for a variety of uses, where it can be made into plastic lids for disposable coffee cups, or in the case of Ricoh, they have used it to help protect its printers in its packaging. PLAiR has an advantage of regular plastic which can take decades to decompose, where upon decomposition, it essentially breaks down into water and carbon dioxide.
Ricoh’s PLAiR made its debut last year, although when exactly we will start seeing it used by other companies remains to be seen, but the idea is intriguing and holds promise.