The preservation of our environment requires that we stop developing materials that will, like many plastics, last indefinitely. Yet nature’s way, to accept rapid degradation because there is continual renewal, is not an option. Industry, especially the automotive sector, which is an enormous user of bulk materials, would like a halfway house of reasonably long-lived materials that nevertheless degrade back into the environment when they are no longer needed. Reinforced plastics based on natural, mainly plant-derived substances show promise of providing this and may turn out to be one of the material revolutions of this century.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(03)00429-2