Ostracus recommends a Christian Science Monitor piece on the 40-year quest to find a replacement for non-biodegradable plastic
. One candidate, written off 20 years back but now developed to the point of practicality, is a formulation based on the lignin found in wood. And it turns out there is another strong environmental reason to put lignin to use in this way: burning it, which is its common fate today, releases the carbon dioxide that trees had sequestered. "Almost 40 years ago, American scientists took their first steps in a quest to break the world's dependence on plastics. But in those four decades, plastic products have become so cheap and durable that not even the forces of nature seem able to stop them. A soupy expanse of plastic waste — too tough for bacteria to break down — now covers an estimated 1 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. ...[R]esearchers started hunting for a substitute for plastic's main ingredient, petroleum. They wanted something renewable, biodegradable, and abundant enough to be inexpensive."