Desert Dream: Sandra Pascoe Ortiz Uses Cactus Juice to Create Plastic Alternative

Sandra Pascoe Ortiz

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz invented biodegradable plastic out of an accessible desert plant: cactus.

More specifically, Sandra Pascoe Ortiz used cactus juice to create plastic that is strong enough to be used as plastic bags.

You may be wondering, so what? Well this plastic is safe to ingest. If it happens to make it into the ocean, the fish and other sea creatures are able to eat this plastic and encounter no harm.

The journey started back in 2013 after Professor Pascoe Ortiz worked with her students at the University of the Valley of Atemajac. After one semester the project was abandoned. But later she picked it back up and began working on it with a new group of students.

Sandra Pascoe Ortiz

Her hope is that this plastic will be used commercially to help reduce waste around the world.

About 18 billion pounds of plastic waste makes it into the oceans from coastal regions. 40% of the plastic produced is for packaging and it’s typically used only once. Pretty wasteful right?

Sandra Pascoe Ortiz’s development has rightfully gone viral on the internet. But right now there’s no word of what the next step may be for this incredibly important development.

Manufacturing this plastic alternative takes 10 days and is exclusive to her lab. However, she does think the process can be sped up to help compete with real plastic

This innovation comes at a time when, at least in the Unites States, the environment is a hot topic. Many Americans were upset after the nation was pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which focused on global temperature rise and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Younger generations, and hopefully future voters, have taken on climate change with a type of admirable ferocity. Staging protests, being vocal on social media, and taking actions to lower their personal impact on the environment.

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz’s discovery deserves more coverage and support. If her biodegradable plastic alternative is pushed commercially, imagine what positive impact that would have on our environment as a whole. Pretty incredible right?

Cover image via Blog del Regio