Coming Soon: A Corn-Based BPA Replacement

Archer Daniels Midland Company is touting isosorbide, a corn-based industrial ingredient, as a safe, renewable alternative to BPA.

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BPA, a toxic compound found in everything from store receipts to water bottles, has been a hot topic as of late. That’s because most industries have been slow to adopt alternatives to the petroleum-based estrogenic compound, which is used in the plastic manufacturing process, among other things. Enter isosorbide, a corn-based industrial ingredient that the Archer Daniels Midland Company is touting as a safe, renewable alternative to BPA.

Archer Daniels explains:

Isosorbide is a versatile ingredient with a wide range of applications. It can be used in polyesters for inks, toners, powder coatings,
packaging and durable goods; polyurethanes for foams and coatings;
polycarbonates for durable goods and optical media; epoxy resins for
paints; and detergents, surfactants and additives for personal care and
consumer products.

Sounds great, right? It is–in theory. The problem is that isosorbide is corn-based, and as anyone familiar with the world of biofuels knows, corn isn’t the most sustainable choice for industrial applications. Besides the massive amounts of resources required for grain production, there’s the larger problem of taking up arable land to produce industrial ingredients.

The Iowa Corn Promotion Board has, unsurprisingly, been promoting isosorbide as a plastic additive for quite a while. And now that Archer Daniels has become the first North American company to offer renewable isosorbide on a commercial scale, BPA-averse companies will quickly latch on. But we hope that the search for BPA alternatives continues–corn is far from ideal.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more