Plastic is everywhere -- from food packaging, to children's toys, to computer keyboards and mouses, it's hard to imagine a world without it.
It's estimated that 1 billion tons of plastic has been discarded since the 1950s. Research suggests it will take up to 500 years for some forms of the material to biodegrade.
While it can be recycled, most winds up in the landfill: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 in the U.S. actually made it to the recycling plants.
Now, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina is hoping to make this omnipresent material a little bit safer for the environment.
Chuanbing Tang is working to develop a new form of plastic derived from the sap of evergreen trees, instead of oil.
“Most plastics from non-renewable resources are generally not biodegradable,” Tang said in a statement.
“With a polymer framework derived from renewable sources, we’re able to make materials that should break down more readily in the environment.”
Tang collaborated with the Chinese Academy of Forestry to identify tree resins that could be used to make plastics.
There's no word on when the material will be ready for commercial production, but the research can be read online in Macromolecular Rapid Communications.