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.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

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

COP22 addresses a strong global pledge to effectively implement the Paris Agreement

Financial support for workers affected by no-deal Brexit

UN’s Bachelet addresses progress and setbacks in human rights worldwide

The European Union continues to lead the global fight against climate change

Shaping the future of democracy in Armenia

Why the agtech boom isn’t your typical tech disruption

What’s really driving corporate climate action?

These innovations could keep us cool without warming the planet

In West Africa, UN Security Council visits Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau

UNICEF reports uneven progress in 30 years of child rights treaty

Friday’s Daily Brief: hunger in North Korea, human rights in Iran, updates on DR Congo and Benin

Multilateralism’s ‘proven record of service’ is focus of first-ever International Day

China hopes EU Commissioner De Gucht drops super anti-dumping tariff on solar panels

Restoring prospect of peace in Middle East is ‘our shared responsibility’ UN envoy tells Security Council

Industrial price dive may lead to point of no return

Alcoholic drinks: Commission tables update of rules governing alcohol excise duties

Anti-vaccination: a private choice leading to collective outcomes

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

UN condemns deadly attack against G5 Sahel force headquarters in Mali

UN chief calls for ‘immediate end’ to escalation of fighting in southwestern Syria, as thousands are displaced

This app uses augmented reality to rewrite ‘herstory’

Cocaine and opium production worldwide hit ‘absolute record highs’ – major threat to public health says UN study

Greece: The new government of Alexis Tsipras shows its colors

The world’s landmine stockpiles in numbers

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

3 ways to make the 2020s the decade we close the gender gap

“Our house is on fire.” 16 year-old Greta Thunberg wants action

How cocoa farming can help stop deforestation

So, what is your favourite Sustainable Development Goal?

AI-driven companies need to be more diverse. Here’s why

Cameron readies to support ‘yes’ for Britain in the EU

MEPs boost support for EU research and Erasmus

EU adopts retaliative measures in response to US steel and aluminum tariffs

In Finland, speeding tickets are linked to your income

‘Negative developments’ undermining two-State solution in Middle East

EU Court of Justice invalidates Safe Harbour and the game for thousands US businesses suddenly changes

EU and UK soon to be in a post-Brexit rush over free trade agreement with Australia

Conflict diamonds and climate change: Cooperate, don’t compete over natural resources urges Guterres

‘Transformational benefits’ of ending outdoor defecation: Why toilets matter

Protecting whistle-blowers: new EU-wide rules approved

Trump’s Russophiles under investigation, Europe remains ‘en garde’

Mental health: what can be done to diminish increasing suicide rates?

4 ways 3D printing can revolutionize manufacturing

Water supply a human right but Greeks to lose their functioning utilities

Gender equality: an issue much talked about but less acted upon

10 tonnes of trash was taken off Everest – and repurposed

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

CDU-SPD agree the terms for EU’s Banking Union

This is how people in Europe are helping lead the energy charge

Terrorist content online should be removed within one hour, says EP

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate change and youth inaction: oblivion or nonchalance?”, AIESEC wonders from Brussels

In Washington D.C., Guterres signs pact with World Bank, meets US President Trump

Eurozone’s credibility rock solid

Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers

Fairness in the Food Supply Chain: Commission welcomes Member States’ support for greater price transparency

This is what the world’s waste does to people in poorer countries

Time to be welcome: Youth work and integration of young refugees

Why the ECB had to clarify it caters for the entire Eurozone not just Germany?

A seafood fraud investigation DNA tested fish sold in the US. Here’s what they found

Revolutionary technologies will drive African prosperity – this is why

More Stings?

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