MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Microplastics are a big polluter of our waterways and oceans, and single-use items are a big part of the problem.
About eight tons of plastic enter our oceans every year, clogging our beaches and harming sea life. But a new type of plastic that's easy on the environment is rolling out in the UK, and it's made from peas.
"Single-use plastics and microplastics don't need to be made from fossil fuels, there's something very wrong about making materials from oil that lasts just for a minute or two," says Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla.
The company says it's the first in the world to engineer plant protein into a material that acts like single-use plastic.
It starts as a liquid that's turned into sheets for packaging items like dishwasher detergent, sandwiches, candy, and even the stickers that go on fruit. All biodegrade in a matter of days.
"At the moment, the microcapsules contain plastic, which would not degrade and last for ages in the ocean. Our capsules were made of protein and would be eaten by fish eventually," says Xampla biochemist Anne Jacobs.
It's much healthier than consuming microplastics. Fish aren't the only ones. Studies show the average American ingests more than 70,000 microplastic particles every year.
It's taken over a decade to perfect the process and it's not just peas. Other common plants like potatoes can be used. It doesn't even have to be food that ends up on the dinner table.
"There are a lot of waste products already in the farming process that have got very low value or even are just plowed straight back into the field, that can be sold on and used to make our kind of materials," Hombersley says.
Scientists say microplastics can cause immune response and respiration issues in aquatic life. One study found oysters lay fewer eggs.
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