"Liquid Wood": A New Plastic That Grows on Trees

By Nina Bai | December 4, 2008 2:08 pm

plasticThis holiday season, Santa’s toy bag will again overflow with plastics. From Legos to Barbies to the Nintendo Wii, most toys today are made from non-degradable and non-renewable plastics derived from fossil fuels. Now a company is developing a bio-plastic that’s made from trees. Could ARBOFORM, or liquid wood, cure us of our plastic addiction?

Liquid wood is made mostly of lignin, one of the three major components of wood, the other two being cellulose and hemicellulose. Lignin is discarded during the paper-making process. A few years ago, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Germany took the lignin and combined it with natural fibers like natural fibers made of wood, hemp, and flax and natural additives such as wax to produce plastic granules. The resulting material was tough, melt-able, and mold-able, and has already been used to make car parts, hunting rifles, and golf tees. But there was one major problem: It stunk from the sulfurous substances that are used to extract lignin from wood and make it non-water-soluble.

Now the company TECHNARO has created a nearly sulfur-free version of ARBOFORM that doesn’t smell—and would be suitable for toys. To demonstrate the purity of the new material, they’ve fashioned a Nativity scene out of liquid wood. The company says the whole Nativity crew is 100 percent renewable and recyclable.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Dirty Truth About Plastic
DISCOVER: Think You Can Live Without Plastic?
DISCOVER: The Chemistry… of Plastics
80beats: Is Your Shower Curtain Toxic?

Image: flickr / kimberlyfaye

  • Lynn

    Why is the baby Jesus white? o_O

  • http://gmail.com Joe Arimathea

    What should he be… purple?

  • Pingback: Green News Roundup | Melodies in Marketing()

  • Bryce

    Joe – if he was born in Bethlehem he wouldn’t be white (or purple) – he’d be brown.

  • Charles R. ALMSTEDT

    Sounds too good to be true! Where can I buy stock?

  • Andrew

    The ancient jews were light skinned (white or olive coloured) just as they mostly are today. I think it’s correct to show Jesus with white or light skin. The news about liquid wood is very welcome if it can get rid of environmentally disastrous plastic.

  • Gabriela Chiran

    Interesting. Plastic is not good for the environment, but is useful.Â


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