1) Kudos to the students, and to millions of students all over the world, who are using their creativity to tackle world problems. At that age I was using my creativity largely to refine my verbal insult skills; and to sneak alcoholic beverages into concerts and football games.
That said, 2) We humans will really go to great lengths to avoid just doing away with the concept of single-use plastic, won’t we? This process looks like it requires a smilar amount of energy input as regular plastics manufacturing processes. Granted, the fact that it’s biodegradable makes it better for oceans. But plastic trash shouldn’t be getting into oceans (or rivers, or landscapes) in the first place. Plastic trash shouldn’t exist in the first place. (NOTE: The students are also using their process to make plant pots and other reusable plastics. Reusable plastics still degrade into bits that pollute the land and water, and harm wildlife, so biodegradable is surely an improvement in this regard.)
The use of a biological resource is a step up (plastics made of plant matter fall into this category as well), but to be really green we need to focus on eliminating single-use plastics, period. We got along without them for millennia.
To get really green we need also to focus on greening the processes of making products. And even more, question the need for certain product categories (such as single-use plastic wrap; bottled water) in the first place.
There are other similar examples of this mind-set I’ve run across; will start a list as I remember them.
• “Green” paper towels –> just don’t buy paper towels. Cloth rags work better. Ditto paper napkins; just use cloth napkins.