This one-liner from the 1967 classic "The Graduate" might have made Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) cringe:
But 43 years later, it's obvious that Mr. McQuire was onto something. Today, it's hard to imagine life without plastic, from brushing your teeth in the morning to pouring yourself a glass of milk. We produce so much of the stuff, though, that we now face major environmental problems. Conventional plastic is made from crude oil, is not often recycled, and, when put in landfills, can release toxins that enter soil, water, and the food chain.
Researchers at Brookhaven and Dow AgroSciences are trying to eliminate some of these harmful side-effects by using plants to make plastic. In a paper published in Plant Physiology, the researchers describe an engineered plant that produces industrially relevant levels of a kind of fatty acid that could potentially be used as a precursor for plastic production. The raw materials for most plastic precursors currently are rooted in petroleum-based chemicals.
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