Top 10 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic


Liquid Wood

Liquid wood is made from a byproduct of paper mills.
Liquid wood is made from a byproduct of paper mills, like the one pictured.
AP Photo/Jim Cole

Next up is a promising bioplastic, or biopolymer, called liquid wood. Biopolymers fake it; these materials look, feel and act just like plastic but, unlike petroleum-based plastic, they're biodegradable. This particular biopolymer comes from pulp-based lignin, a renewable resource.

Manufacturers mix lignin, a byproduct of paper mills, with water, and then expose the mixture to serious heat and pressure to create a moldable composite material that's strong and nontoxic. German researchers have incorporated this plastic substitute into a variety of items including toys, golf tees and even hi-fi speaker boxes.

In 2018, Bioplastics News reported that Christopher Johnson, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, had developed a promising process for improve the conversion of lignin into a substitute material for plastics, as well as nylon.

Because it's made of wood, it can be recycled as wood, too.