One of the main problems of polyethelyne is that without special treatment it is not biodegradable, and thus accumulates. In Japan getting rid of plastics in an environmentally friendly way was the major problem discussed until the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
It was listed as a $90 billion market for solutions. Since 2008 Japan has rapidly increased the recycling of plastics, but still has a large rate of plastic wrapping which goes to waste. During the 1980s and 1990s it was shown that many endangered marine species including birds that live in the marine environment are at extra hazard, with thousands of cases of suffocation from swallowing plastic bags or plastic content.
Bioplastics and Renewable Polyethylene
Braskem and Toyota Tsusho Corporation started Joint marketing activities for producing polyethylene from sugar cane. Braskem will build a new facility at their existing industrial unit in Triunfo, RS, Brazil with an annual production capacity of 200,000 short tons (180,000,000 kg), and will produce high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) from bioethanol derived from sugarcane.
Polyethylene can also be made from other feedstocks, including wheat grain and sugar beet.
These developments are using renewable resources rather than fossil fuel, although the issue of plastic source is currently negligible in the wake of plastic waste and in particular polyethylene waste.