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Reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic is no longer enough to reverse the damage we’ve done. Solution? Innovate!
Over the last five decades, the global production of plastic has outpaced the manufacturing of any other material.
Plastic, a material with great cost-effectiveness and excellent versatility, has become the world’s most used material.
On the other hand, the environmental problems associated with the manufacturing, use, and misuse, of plastic are tremendously higher.
Plastic is everywhere, from plastic straws to shoes and grocery bags, and from shampoo bottles to toothbrushes, and food wrapping.
Even worse, it is not just the making of plastic that’s impacting the planet, but also the way we’re dealing with it once disposed of.
Instead of being recycled and reused, 95 per cent of the world’s plastic packaging ends up in the oceans – according to the World Economic Forum’s report ‘The New Plastics Economy‘.
Recycling Plastic Helps But Is Not Enough
The last two years of constant media awareness on how plastic impacts our health and the ecosystem has started to yield results.
For once, the number of countries banning single-use plastics is on the rise.
Then, global corporations, such as PepsiCo, Mars and Coca-Cola, have pledged to reuse their plastics.
These are great steps towards a circular economy, a cleaner, and safer world.
Unfortunately, reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic is not enough to cause a change for the better.
For that, plastic must be replaced with similar eco-friendly alternatives, as recent studies show.
Otherwise, replacing plastic with a different material would get worse by increasing the overall energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
To save the planet from chocking we require three things:
- Awareness of innovative material alternatives.
- Big industry players adoption of such eco-friendly alternatives.
To play our part in creating awareness, we’ve put together five innovations that could end the reign of single-plastic in our lives and make this world a better place.
Without further ado, here are the most innovative plastic alternatives you can use right now:
1. Water Soluble Plastic
Sealed Air is another worth-mentioning company which makes the air pouches (plant-based) we’ve all seen in Amazon packages.
Recently, Sealed Air has partnered with the Japanese company Kurarary to produce Kuraray’s ‘Plantic’ material.
The material comprises a plant-based resin and post-consumer recycled plastic.
The packaging will be used for perishable foods such as poultry, beef and seafood in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Moreover, the material is designed to dissolve in water.
2. Drink Straws from Seaweed
Loliware is a company specialising in bioplastics as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
The company’s latest creation is plastic straws made from seaweed.
The seaweed plastic straws can last for about 20 hours of continuous use before it starts the eco-friendly disintegration process.
“Single use-plastics should be created to disappear, instead of lasting forever. The existing plastic manufacturing system has a serious design flaw”, explains Fawn Briganti, the founder of Loliware.
With the Loliware straws that decompose naturally just like food waste, Briganti wants to show that the system can be redesigned for better.
3. Plastic-Free TeaBags
I bet you didn’t know that the ever so ordinary teabags you’ve been using for ages now are all sealed with plastic polymers.
What does that mean? Well, while made of paper, tea-bags must be sealed once the tea is put in.
The sealing of the bag can’t be done with chemicals that dissolve in water, or it would affect the taste, colour and flavour of the tea.
Instead, micro-particles of melted plastic are used. However, there are a few problems with this process.
For once, we ingest those plastic micro-particles, which in turn impact our health.
Second, the bags won’t decompose once discarded, destroying the environment and oceans at scale.
For example, in the case of British tea lovers – consumers of approx. 160 million teabags each day – the resulting amount of ingested plastic is shocking.
Right now, KDY, a Dutch company, is working on a tasteless and odourless organic compound that can be used to seal teabags.
Made from papaya, the material is said to increase the flavour of the team.
Until then, if unsure if your fav brand of tea is plastic-free, just buy loose tea.
It is cheaper and safer for everyone; you, animals, and the planet.
4. Plastic-free Wraps from Shellfish Shells
This is the latest rage in food wrapping.
Biodegradable food wrapping made from shellfish waste.
Patented by CuanTec, a Scottish company, the process lies in extracting a naturally occurring biopolymer from the shells of shellfish and other fish waste.
Called chitin, the material is then fermented into chitosan and mixed with other naturally-occurring substances that enhance flexibility, resistance and malleability.
The final result is a compostable bioplastic film wrap that can replace plastic wraps with success.
Moreover, the plastic alternative made from shellfish waste has excellent anti-microbial properties. How amazing is that?
5. Bowls from Palm Leaves
Throwaway plastic bowls are everywhere nowadays.
You find them at cinemas, entertainment parks, even museums, usually used for ice-creams and jelly beans.
Created by GreenBox, a company specialised in eco-packaging, these eco-friendly bowls are made from the leaves of a palm tree.
The biomaterial is widely available for free as the Areca Palm trees are cultivated all across India for their nuts, and the leaves are discarded as waste.
Apart from being biodegradable, palm leaves have other characteristics that make them excellent alternatives to plastic.
- Stable and sturdy.
- Safe for food use.
- Water repellent.
- Do not require artificial coatings or extra additives.
- Resistant against grease and sauces.
- Good thermal property.
- Suitable for hot dishes.
- A unique grain on every leaf.
Conclusion – Recycling Plastic
Plastic is present in every object you can imagine.
It is used in the food industry, in medical equipment, packaging, auto manufacturing, in computers, and in fashion apparel manufacturing.
Plastic has also become part of our food chain. It is found in plants, fish, animals, and even people.
Plastic is needed but it is also the primary polluting source across the planet.
A change is badly needed, a change that’s in our hands. Us, the consumers of these products.
With eco-friendly plastic alternatives available, it is our turn to vote with our wallets.
If we do so, brands will have no other option but to comply.
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