Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Greenwash, green-wish, or greenwtf?

I mentioned yesterday that I had just received word of a new off-the-shelf report projecting bioplastics demand.  I have only seen a few figures and a prospectus, and my feelings are mixed.

The good news is that the numbers are unhysterical; conservative, even.  I'll update the graph to refect the new figures. 

The flyer forecasts Brazil as the top producer of bio-based polymers in 2013.  That is a possible development.  But, in support of this, the flyer says something dumb.
"Furthermore, once the planned bio-based polyethylene, polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride plants come online, Brazil will become the world’s leading producer of bioplastics in 2013."

Green polypropylene?  Braskem did run a pilot plant that made bio-based polypropylene, and got some PR out of it, but Braskem CEO Bernardo Gradin is on record saying the process is not commercial. 
"In addition, Brazil is probably the most effective and productive producer of ethanol and we think that will be the case for some time. Being positioned in Brazil with such technology can be really good in strategic and in operational terms for Braskem. The polypropylene you mentioned was also a breakthrough but it is not in a viable route so far. We are concentrating on polyethylene and we have a team that is developing green polymers. We are looking for international alliances." - Knowledge@Wharton Dec 2008

It was a grant-supported proof-of-concept, if I recall correctly, and should not be used as a marker on a trendline leading to a product in the marketplace any time soon.  Commercial renewable production of polypropylene is a distant prospect at this time, lurking in the uncharted future with lignocellulosic ethanol and other nice ideas. 

Distortions like these are annoying enough when press releases echo through twitter and the blogs, but I expect more from the analysts at top research firms.  Somehow the green polypropylene factoid was promoted to fact by researcher and editors.  It isn't greenwash; too ignorant for that.  I can't call it greenwishing, the bias toward hope that springs renewable.

I'm calling it greenwtf.

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