From the Pacific islands to the mountains of Tibet, plastic trash is piling up, but scientists are working on solutions and you can help.
9 more ways you can actively reduce plastic waste
Recently we published a video of 8 ways you can reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate, plus a link to 100+ more suggestions on how to quit plastic dependence altogether. We asked you, our followers, for your suggestions for other ways to reduce our plastic use. We have now put together a new video with 9 of those suggestions. Thank you all for your input and ideas.
Some plastics can take anywhere from 450-1,000 years to degrade naturally; some never will
When chemist Leo Baekeland combined phenol and formaldehyde in 1907 to create Bakelite, the world’s first plastic, few would know just 100 years later what a huge impact it would have — for good and for bad.
Plastic has led to advances in production and commerce, but it’s also created one of the most pressing environmental problems today — how to stop the vast deposits of plastic being buried in landfills and left swirling in the world’s oceans.
Plastic can take anywhere from 450-1,000 years to degrade naturally, and some materials made with polyethylene terephthalate or PET never biodegrade, according to Postconsumers.com.
What’s more, only about 14 percent of the 78 million metric tons of plastic produced in 2013 was recycled, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found.
NASA sought to visualise the so-called ‘ocean garbage patches’ using data collected over 35 years in partnership with NOAA. The result is simply mesmerising. See video below.
“MIDWAY, a Message from the Gyre”
Photographer Chris Jordan has also documented the toll that plastic debris has taken on wildlife in Midway Island located in the North Pacific Ocean which sits on the gyre known as the Pacific Garbage Patch. Watch a trailer to his short film: “MIDWAY, a Message from the Gyre”:
Solutions include bioplastics, advances in recycling… and worms?
One solution: Bioplastics
So what’s the solution? For many it lies in bioplastics — or plastics made using biodegradable materials such as corn, potato, and soy. Materials are extracted from these starches, fermented and then polymerized, to make polylactic acid or PLA.
The global demand for bioplastic is expected to increase sixfold by 2020 to 5.3 million metric tons — but that’s still small compared to the 78 million metric tons of plastic produced in 2013, according to data from Applied Market Information.
Another solution: Advances in recycling
Scientists at Colorado State University have recently found a way to polymerize single plastic molecules and then heat them to convert them back to their original molecular state. This would allow plastics to be completely recyclable.
Marc Hillmyer with the Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota said this new bioplastic represents a huge step forward.
“The idea of taking a plastic all the way back to its starting materials and then making a new pristine material again is attractive in that regard,” Hillmyer said.
Another solution: Worms
Scientists at Stanford University have also recently experimented with using a worm that can break down styrofoam into organic materials. See video below.
Tons of trash removed as China cleans up world’s highest mountain
Meanwhile, in China, the Tibet Autonomous Region launched a nine-day clean-up campaign of Mount Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) last Saturday, with four tons of waste and debris collected in the first five days, Xinhua News Agency reported.
100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life
Do you think it’s possible to live life without plastic? Or to at least live with less of it? Check out this list of plastic-free and less plastic alternatives and see for yourself. Choose a few that seem do-able and that will make the most impact. No one can do it all at once. But we can all get started!