Plastics are a major environmental problem because they are not biodegradable. One exception is polyhydroxybutyrate-hydroxyvalerate (PHB-V), but manufacturing it is expensive and its use is restricted. A Swedish researcher has combined PHB-V with wood fibres to come up with an inexpensive alternative he calls "fibrewood," (Science, Vol 257 No 5076).
Paul Gatenholm of Chalmers University of Technology in Gotenborg blended the two normally incompatible substances so that the fibres can be coated with plastic. Gatenholm says his fibrewood can be used to replace heavier and more expensive fibreglass products and for car bumpers and fenders, heavy plastic wraps and food containers.