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This article is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices, and is part of a series promoting my kickstarter campaign to raise funds with which to complete the book. Though we rarely think of it, starch is the number two most used carbohydrate in industry, coming just after cellulose which is used in great quantities in papermaking. Osage orange is a perennial inedible starch with excellent potential as a feedstock for industrial products like cardboard and bioplastics. Starches are important constituents of paper and cardboard, binding to cellulose fibers to strengthen the final product.
Bioplastics are defined as “biodegradable plastics whose components are derived entirely or almost entirely from renewable raw materials.” (Stevens, 104) Plastics are a clear case where replacing fossil fuels means more than looking at energy. What does bio–based, carbon–sequestering, decentralized, low–tech, socially–just plastic production look like? Starches have binding and stabilizing properties that make them useful in numerous chemical products. Non-destructively harvested perennial starches include nuts, grains, woody pods, starchy fruits, starchy resprouting trunks, and aerial tubers. These crops, integrated in diverse perennial agroecosystems, can provide starches for various industrial uses. Another reason to cultivate inedible carbohydrates is the principle of agricultural biodiversity. Interestingly this is a difficult category to collect data on, as it has not been important until recently. Each region should develop a list of their native and naturalized resources before importing toxic plants from elsewhere. Even with its drawbacks bioplastic is being touted by some people as “the green product” that will push the green movement into the next decade.  Here are some links to help you form an informed opinion about this possible green solution to many of our environmental challenges. BB Bricks are made of recycle plastic or recyclable plastic , depending on color and kind . Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising.
However the gelatisation process isn't 100% successful and films made using this method rapidly degrade and become brittle. Unlike many industrial crop categories, there is no “synthetic starch” being made from fossil fuels. I’ve become very hopeful about the potential for small–scale, regional bioplastic facilities around the world, providing necessities like irrigation pipes and more from local, perennial feedstocks. For example, they are used in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and other products as binders, coaters, flocculants, coagulants, finishing agents and stabilizers.
Certainly edible perennial starch crops can be used for ethanol production and industrial starch uses, though food should come first. This is a great use for the inedible forms of air potato, which are already so abundant in areas they have naturalized, and are native to almost half the world’s tropics. Note that this is a very preliminary table and many more species are present throughout the globe. Osage orange is a cold-hardy member of the mulberry family, and like its tropical relatives breadfruit and jakfruit, produces a large green starchy fruit the size of a grapefruit. Though these ancient plants superficially resemble palms, they are part of a lineage that arose long before the origin of flowering plants.
This toxic, starchy nut genus in the soapnut family has representatives all over the cold temperate parts of the world, as well as some tropical highland and Mediterranean climates. However, since about 2008 it has become one of the leading green products.  Everything from golf balls to chip bags to building products are now available in bioplastic.  You can even YouTube how to make the stuff!
Because you will never throw away your BB Bricks , just like your Lego , you handle in a quite sustainable way .
PLA is a bio-based raw material which may eventually be composted and is made of starch from waste streams from the food industry . Previous attempts at aleviating this problem have involved the use of small molecules to prevent recrystalisation, however these have also degraded over time.The Finnish researchers used a star-shaped molecule called AEEP (aminoethoxy ethanol substituted phosphazene), which acts as a plasticiser which prevents the starch molecules from leeching and migrating.
Although the visuals suggest that these items simply disintegrate (Goodbye, landfill!), the reality is more complicated.
Surprisingly, starches are also used in numerous construction products for their binding and thickening properties, such plasterboard, glues, joint compounds, paints, foams, and ceiling coatings.
More interestingly, the need for non-destructively harvested perennial starch crops for industrial purposes offers a somewhat novel and intriguing use for a class of plants that has, until now, been largely neglected: plants producing poisonous or non-edible carbohydrates, such as inedible nuts and starchy fruits. This might also provide a use for toxic nuts that have traditionally required extensive processing before eating, like horse chestnuts, cycad nuts, and Moreton Bay chestnuts.
Because if we mix up plant families and utilize different crops, we diversify our crop mix and lessen pest pressure on edible starch producing perennial crops. That is where the resemblance ends, however, as Osage orange is inedible and perhaps somewhat toxic (though the small seeds are apparently edible).


They are adapted throughout the tropics and subtropics, with species for sun and shade, desert, swamp, and rainforest. The nuts closely resemble chestnuts, and they seem to yield almost as well despite no domestication efforts.
The designer of the BB Bricks created already in 2009 cable ducts , made of PLA (called the ChipChain) . All, or virtually all industrial starch comes from annual food crops, grown in conventional tillage systems.
Worldwide, 100,000,000 tons of plastic are produced every year, almost all made from fossil fuels. Stevens’ Green Plastics, which gives recipes to make bioplastics in your kitchen with simple materials like cornstarch, glycerin, and gelatin. Products include pharmaceuticals, glucose, biopolymers, and “platform chemicals” like lactic acid which are used as building blocks in the chemicals industry. It would of course be important to distinguish between edible and non-edible crops in the stage of harvesting and processing. Native to a small area of Texas and adjacent states, Osage orange turns out to be widely adapted to warm and cold temperate climates, from semi-arid to quite humid. Most or all fix low amounts of nitrogen through a partnership with blue-green algae in the roots.
Given their wide geographic potential, domestication and cultivation of Aesculus nuts for industrial starch seems worthy of consideration. The VARA (Dutch broadcasting network) registered that process in their radio and television program Vroege Vogels . Due to be a father myself later this month, I'm looking forward to sharing with my kids (it's twins!) the same good old toys, less the discernible odor of chemical toxicity, that I played with as a child: the fancifully-colored beach pail, the deluxe tea set with service for four (I had an older sister). One example already in commercial production is starch-based packing foam, which replaces petroleum-based Styrofoam packing peanuts. The great majority of these are not biodegradable, causing an incredible pollution problem.
Breeding oaks for industrial starch would simplify the domestication process – annual bearing would still be a goal, but there would be no need to breed out the tannins. Green Toys is using plastics made by processing "biotic" (organic) material, in other words those found in nature, as opposed to most plastic products, whose primary raw ingredient is the bad-for-many-reasons petroleum. Likewise, Paper Mate notes that the pen's outer casing will break down if buried in a backyard but that its innards should go in the garbage. So first we’re using annuals where perennials might fill the gap, and second we’re using food to make cardboard and drywall.
Many toxic processes are used to make them, and some partially degrade into serious contaminants as well.
In fact, tannins themselves are a useful industrial product that could be removed in the processing plant. This seems like a waste of food, and if we want to minimize the use of annuals we need to find another strategy. It turns out that people have been making plastics from natural materials since the mid-1800s. This slow-growing but long-lived group of plants are utterly unrelated to any commercial crops, offering a change to produce industrial starch while taking a complete break from traditional food crop families. It will also provide NatureWorks plastic, which is made from poly lactic acid (PLA), another corn-based product.
Bioplastics could be really good for the environment — the manufacturing process produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than that for petroleum-based plastics, and these biomaterials don't contain an allegedly hormone-disrupting chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), that some regular plastics do. Efforts are also underway to genetically modify plants to produce particular starches useful to industry. In fact, Henry Ford debuted a car mostly made from soy–based plastics in 1941, though World War II ended up distracting the world from this achievement (Stevens, 115). Genera to investigate include Cycas, Dioon, Encephelartos, Macrozamia, Microcycas, and Zamia. Essentially the both plastics are manufactured from bioplastic resin made from annually renewable resources like corn and other starches. Given the wide range of starch types available in nature, and the ingenuity of chemists, I think this is unnecessary and somewhat alarming. Scientists are hard at work developing bio–based, compostable plastics which are made from renewable feedstocks and can break back down into organic matter. Keep in mind though that the fruits are 80% water, yielding thus something less than 9 tons of starch per hectare (comparing favorably to corn though with more processing). Since it took 77 million years for the earth to produce the fossil fuels that are used in the manufacturing of traditional plastic products, these bioplastics are truly renewable since corn can be planted and harvested in less than a year's time. Many of us still don't recycle all our bottles and cans, and now companies are expecting us to start composting?


What’s missing is an emphasis on perennial, non-destructively harvested feedstocks, especially non-food crops. These rather impressive yields of starch bode well for use in industrial starch uses like papermaking and bioplastics.
Once all the farm equipment runs on solar-powered batteries, then we'll really be good to go.
Bioplastics can be made from cellulose, starch, oils, resins, and other plant–and animal–based materials. The fruit also contains hydrocarbon triterpenes, a potentially interesting petroleum replacement.
Interestingly bioplastics are not necessarily biodegradable, nor is their production necessarily non-toxic. Not withstanding the passage of the disappointing Farm Bill, the more that government-subsidized corn is used to make the things our children play with, perhaps the less high-fructose corn syrup will find its way into the foods they eat. Scientists are working to emphasize non-toxic production and full compostability and have developed many products that meet those needs. Although we're not so keen on the less-than-sensible diverting of food crops for non-nutritional uses such as for substitute fuels like ethanol, (we're gunning for switch grass) we'll take the added bump that these new children's toys could have on the problem of childhood obesity in America.
Both bioplastics are made of fermented corn sugar, and both come with a major benefit: if disposed of properly, they won't stick around in landfills for thousands of years. Some are simple and based on starch (at this point mostly GMO corn, obviously not my favorite). Vast hedgerows of osage orange were planted throughout the eastern and central US as thorny living fences before the development of barbed wire.
The PLA resins that biodegrade when composted are showing up in more and more consumer products. These include the extruded foam packing peanuts you may have received in the mail as well as agricultural plastics, trash bags, plasticware, and diapers.
For example, NatureWorks makes polymers that are now in SunChips bags, water bottles in some government cafeterias and new Coca-Cola fountain-soda cups. Some longer–lived bioplastics can be created by fermenting starches and other biomaterials. Their stickiness occasionally causes choking death in cattle that try to eat them (though some horses enjoy them). Several other bioplastics are getting more attention including some based on polymerized resins like polylactic acid-based (PLA) plastics .
However, if we as a society desire industrial starch and it’s benefits, Osage orange offers many soil-building and carbon-sequestering benefits over production of annual grains or tubers.
However, should moisture seep in, bioplastics could anaerobically degrade and give off methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. To my knowledge no one has ever selected Osage orange varieties for superior fruit production.
The plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, though some female plants apparently set seedless fruit without a male present. Kitchen scraps and yard waste emit the gas, which is one reason many garbage dumps have started capturing methane output and using it for energy. Production of female-only clones may offer a strategy for cultivation without the potential for naturalizing outside its current range. Those of us in cold climates can also dream of a wide cross between Osage orange and jakfruit or breadfruit, aiming for the cold-hardy edible starchy fruit of our dreams. And smaller companies have yet to add sorting mechanisms like infrared technology that can separate clear bioplastic bottles from the regular, petroleum-based kind.
It has reportedly been crossed with the related edible Cudrania tricuspidata, though some question the validity of the cross and the fruits from that hybrid were certainly not edible when I tried them (in fact they looked and tasted a lot like regular Osage orange fruit).
The 16% protein dry weight of osage orange fruit, as well as the small but edible seeds, would be a great addition to a future cold-climate perennial staple crops. Many of the disposal issues could be resolved if manufacturers follow Bakx's suggestion and adopt a uniform color to identify bioplastic resins.
Until then, Naturally Iowa is selling its PLA water bottles only in places like hotels and cafeterias, like the ones used by Congress and the U.S. But the more pain we feel at the pump — gas prices are expected to go back up to $3 a gal. For now, many SunChips purchasers are complaining not about the lack of industrial composting sites but about how much noise the new bag makes.



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