Why aren’t cornstarch-based containers or other similar alternatives to plastic and styrofoam packaging being mass produced yet?


I’ve seen a lot of videos of these kinds of packaging, and if they’re as earth-friendly as they seem to be, then why aren’t we funding their production yet? Especially now when take-out food and package delivery culture is really popular?

In: Economics

First off, I’ve seen those eco-friendly packing peanuts out and about so they clearly are being mass-produced.

That said, these materials are often inferior to existing thermoplastics which are already recyclable. More expensive, weaker, dissolve in water, and so on. I mean, if your sandwich bag dissolved into your sandwich, it wouldn’t be a very good sandwich bag. In general, the more constraints you put on a material, the less optimal it will be for any given thing. If it has to be water-soluble, then odds are it will not be the best material in other ways.

Until it’s cost effective to manufacture alternatives to plastic and styrofoam, you won’t see much of it. It can become more cost effective by lowering the cost of alternatives by increasing production to take advantage of economies of scale, creating incentives (tax breaks, subsidies, etc.), etc. You can also change consumer behavior so that companies are compelled by market demand, or change the regulatory landscape so companies are compelled by government demand, to change to more eco-friendly packaging. But currently, in most of the world, it is far cheaper to use plastic and foam than alternatives.