Describe how the uses of plant fibres and starch may contribute to sustainability How can plant fibres be used? First of all the plant fibres have to be extracted from the plant itself. The process of extraction often used is called retting. Retting involves using water or micro-organisms to dissolve or rot away the cellular tissues surrounding the bast-fibre bundles. Afterwards the fibres are obtained; usually they extract very long sclerenchyma cells and xylem tissue because of their good tensile strength. From this many materials can be made, here are a couple of examples: ? Wood fibres – can be used to make paper from trees Sisal fibres – are obtained from Agave Sisalana and these fibres are used in the construction of cars, furniture, plastics and even paper. Uses of starch and plant based products to replace oil-based products Canvas Bags – Canvas bags is a product sweeping the nation to help us rid the use of plastic oil-based plastic bags. Canvas bags are made from linen, which are fibres extracted for the flax plant, canvas bags also contain cotton, which is extracted from the cotton bag. The canvas bag is an ingenious product because not only can it replace the oil-based (petroleum) plastic bags but they are also reusable and also sustainable.
Related reading: Disadvantages of Plants Living on Land
Starch Bags – Starch bags are a relatively unknown product, not as popular as a replacement as a canvas bag. However the starch bag is obtained from the starch within many plants. If the bag is no longer needed and discarded, they will soon decompose into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within 10-12 weeks, thus leaving no harmful residue behind. If you compare these to the oil-based products, they are a lot greener; this is because oil-based petroleum plastic bags give off a lot of air pollution and energy consumption to produce them.
In addition to this if the plastic bags are discarded like many of them are (100 billion per year in USA), then they would not biodegrade (takes 1000 years) and could generate visual pollution and bring discomfort, and a lot of the time, death to many animals. Advantages and Disadvantages: Advantages – •Both the starch bags and the canvas bags (made of cotton and linen) are made from a sustainable source. •Canvas bags do not wear and tear. In addition to this they are stronger than oil-based plastic bags and won’t split under heavy pressure. Starch bags are biodegradable – If the starch bags are discarded they will decompose into non-harmful residue within 10-12 weeks of production. Disadvantages – •The land used to grow the cotton plants, flax plants and plants used to extract starch would be wasteful and take up plenty of ground. Because cotton is predominately grown in Africa and India (places where food is at a shortage and hunger is on the uprising), the land used for the cotton would take up much area that could be used for farming, farming that could lead to food for the local people.
The introduction of canvas bags and starch bags has the potential to change the way we think about greener alternatives. Canvas bags already have become widespread popular, with millions of households across England owning at least one, however oil-based plastic bags are still the leading supermarket bag. I believe the production of starch bags and canvas bags are extremely important and should be developed further and advertised more, this will hopefully ensure that the production and use of oil-based plastic bags are eradicated completely.
This in turn would: decrease the production of harmful gases into the atmosphere and cause less air pollution; it would decrease the visual pollution of discarded plastic bags, would save animals lives that could get caught in them or even choke on them. On the other hand, as previously mentioned, land taken up to grow plants for the bags would precious land that could be used for farming and could feed a lot of the local people.
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