We can use plastics to change the world for the better

plastic

(Tanvi Sharma, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lesley Van Staveren, Co-founding director, ReGen Plastics


Plastic is often referred to as a material that needs to be eradicated.

There is no doubt that the way we use plastics and our understanding of it as a resource have to change drastically. Yes, there is too much virgin material being produced and too many natural resources are used in the process; combine that with the way the average consumer uses and disposes of plastic, and our current attitudes come as no surprise.

Ironically, plastic was first invented to solve environmental problems – to reduce hunting for ivory, for example, and to provide sheaths for electrical wiring. And it remains an extraordinary resource – if we can raise awareness of the potential in using what is already in existence.

It is the ideal material for long-term applications. As a pure material, plastic can continue to be reused, recycled and remanufactured. But to do this, we need to change our thinking.

 

Plasticity of approach

One major barrier to the growth of new industries in remote or rural areas is the sheer distance between towns – but herein lies one example of the opportunities that a new plastics economy could create, with higher levels of employment, a consistent output and a true example of the circular economy in action. Growth in these areas will in turn create more opportunities for the next generation, who are seeking roles in which they can not only innovate and build a career but can also make a positive difference to our planet all while strengthening the economy.

By capturing the plastic we already have in circulation by developing clusters of direct collaboration along the supply chain, can not only strengthen local relationships but also capture value and create higher levels of transparency along the line.

Food manufacturers and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers offer one example of how regional loops might be created. This principle will be the same for other plastics similar to HDPE, with each having specific behavioural characteristics that can be applied to other long-term uses.

A food manufacturer will review their production process to ensure the plastic used for packaging containers is a pure resin (that is, not cheap, low-grade material) – which demonstrates the value of specific plastics vs cheap, low-performance products that continue to end up in landfill.

An ‘end of service’ partnership is created with a local plastic-processing facility, to which consumers can take their used containers either to be sterilized to food-grade quality and returned to the food manufacturer – or to be shredded, washed and manufactured into pellets that can then be recycled. This establishes the first local loop.

The pellets then go to the next partner in the supply chain; an end-market manufacturer, who can either manufacture more containers out of the recaptured material, or alternatively they could produce high-performance parts that can support other industries such as construction, marine or aviation.

These parts that were then utilized in complimenting industries can then be remanufactured again at the end of their service for that particular use.

Is there opportunity in this crisis?
Is there opportunity in this crisis?
Image: Janet A Beckley / University of Georgia

Challenges

The biggest challenge? Throughout Australia, where our company is based, there are minimal plastic processing or manufacturing facilities.

This problem is compounded by the long distances that the majority of products we purchase have to be transported. This has substantial impacts, as resources are transported back and forth unnecessarily, generating needless emissions and road wear, not to mention freight costs.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

But through direct investment and innovation, and by designing infrastructure that is scalable to cope with the current and future volumes of plastic that are used and produced in each region, we can do the following:

· Capture what is already in existence

· Create full transparency and accountability for manufactured plastic

· Develop complementary relationships between industries.

· Dramatically reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill or oceans

· Communicate that plastic is a valuable resource

· Reduce the amount of virgin material being produced

· Educate local communities about the differences between low grade and high-grade plastic

· Develop jobs and industries to give regions a greater influence over the sustainability of their local economy

Plastic isn’t just rubbish: it could actually be a driver for transforming regional relationships and inspiring true collaborations founded on circular economy principles. The opportunity is there; we just have to look through a different lens.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Chauvinism and xenophobia will lead to global assertiveness and more wars

Environmental labelling, information and management schemes are central to the circular economy

A Sting Exclusive: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum

Inequality triggered protests across Latin America. Here’s how the youth can help

Why saving our forests should be a global priority

UN condemns deadly simultaneous terrorist attacks on military camps in Mali

The EU-US trade agreement, victim of right-wing extremists and security lunatics

Yemen agreement to end southern power struggle ‘important step’ towards peace: UN Special Envoy

Killing of Egyptian peacekeeper in Mali ‘may constitute war crimes’ Guterres warns, urging ‘swift action’

The undead banks

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

5G in Russia: a local and global view on the way forward, in association with The European Sting

President Juncker temporarily transfers portfolio responsibilities following departure of two Members of the European Commission

The great sustainable reset: The new world of work after the pandemic

Progress toward sustainable development is seriously off-track

Energy security: The synchronisation of the Baltic States’ electricity networks – European solidarity in action

Deepening Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union: Commission takes stock of progress

What COVID-19 tells us about the changing nature of disaster risk

How technology can help us achieve universal healthcare

‘Emulate his example’ urges UN chief as world celebrates Nelson Mandela: a ‘global advocate for dignity and equality’

Generalist practicing: is it worth it?

Royal Navy to unveil future surveillance and reconnaissance requirements next February in Rome

French Prime Minister passes Stability Program and takes his ‘café’ in Brussels this June

4 myths about manufacturing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

‘Action and tangible progress’ needed to finally ‘win the peace’ for Syrians: UN envoy

British PM May’s Brexit proposal remains obscure while her government unravels

Estonian Prime Minister Ratas: Europe is a thought that must become a feeling

Coronavirus could worsen hunger in the developing world

18th European Forum on Eco-innovation live from Barcelona: What’s next for eco-labelling?

Antitrust: Commission seeks feedback on commitments offered by Broadcom concerning TV set-top box and modem chipset markets

India is a latecomer to AI. Here’s how it plans to catch up

Mobile 360 Series – Russia & CIS: Empowering the Digital Economy

Monday’s Daily Brief: WFP mulls ‘last resort’ Yemen aid suspension, top peacekeeping awardee announced, abuzz over Bee Day, Ebola threat ‘very high’

5 libraries doing innovative things to help their communities

World Summit Awards 2016: Sustainable impact through digital innovation

‘Let the children live’: UN prepares to ramp up food aid to Yemen as famine risk grows

Brain Drain remains a crucial and unresolved issue

Nearly half a billion people can’t find decent work; unemployment set to rise: new UN labour report

How many more financial crises in the West can the world stand?

Fighting cybercrime – what happens to the law when the law cannot be enforced?

6 innovative technologies about to transform our infrastructure

EU on track to end use of chemicals harming the ozone layer

A roadmap for destination management in the digital economy

Brands can be a force for good and for growth. Here’s how

China’s Ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming wishes to Brussels a Happy 2019 Year of the Pig

Telemedicine can be a COVID-19 game-changer. Here’s how

What are the greatest global health threats?

Can fighting climate change bring the Arab world closer together?

How to make primary healthcare a favourable career choice for medical students: strategies and reflections

Shanghai has tough new recycling rules – and it will stop collecting trash from communities that don’t comply

‘Everyone must be on board’ for peace in Central African Republic: UN’s Lacroix

VW diesel scandal and climate change: can increased independent car checks lead to cleaner mobility?

EU to Turkey: No other ties than €3+3bn to upkeep refugees

Rural women a ‘powerful force’ for global climate action: UN Secretary-General

The EU will always have a stable partner in Montenegro, says President Đukanović

Youth unemployment: think out of the box

Just transition in EU regions: support to people, economy and environment

Scientists in Sweden are studying the climate-cooling effects of spruce forests

These are the fastest trains in the world

Long-term EU budget: Parliament wants safety net for beneficiaries

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s