There is no denying the fact that we, as a global society, have a huge problem with plastic. Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century, and the majority of this plastic is disposable, meaning it gets thrown out shortly after use.
It is estimated that we dump around 8.8 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans every single year, and approximately 700 marine species are in danger of extinction as a result. It might seem harsh, but plastic takes 500 to 1,000 years to degrade, so it is going to keep accumulating until our oceans are one big plastic dumpster. In fact, a recent study found that if we don’t take action to curb our plastic habit, there will soon be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Thankfully, there are people out there making efforts to lessen plastic’s detrimental effects on the environment. Here are just a few innovations that give us a hope for a plastic-free future:
A new bacteria called Ideonella sakaiensis was discovered recently by a group of scientists in Japan that have confirmed it can degrade a common type of plastic called PET poly(ethylene terephthalate) within six weeks. PET can be found in clothing, water bottles, and food packaging. These types of plastics are usually labeled with a “1” inside of the recycling symbol. The way it works is by using enzymes to convert PET into two environmentally benign monomers that enhance their energy and growth. This bacteria, however, would only work to degrade plastics on land, but given that 80 percent of trash found in the oceans comes from land-based sources, this could be very helpful to the world’s marine ecosystem. The study on this was done in a laboratory where the bacteria’s only food choice was PET, so it is not known as to whether they would choose to eat PET over other things in the environment. It is still in the very beginning stages of research, but it could potentially make a huge impact in cleaning up on-shore plastic bottles and other PET plastics.
Kids Innovating Plastic Solutions
Another plastic reducing stride has been made by a 15-year-old boy named Amin Hataman in the Phillipines. He invented a type of biodegradable plastic bag made from nata de coco, a byproduct of coconut, for a science project at the Fountain International School.
“There was this suggestion of nata de coco because it has cellulose properties, which means that it could copy plastic that we use today, but it’s organic,” Hataman said.
In 2014, he won the gold medal for the International Young Inventors Olympiad in Georgia, and a bronze medal in the 2015 International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project (I-SWEEP) Olympiad in Texas. Hataman has been in the process of trying to patent this product. Many biodegradable plastics have been introduced in recent years, but none have become mainstream.
In 2013, two girls started a campaign called “Bye Bye Plastic Bags” in order to try to get a ban on plastic bags in Bali.They made petitions, did clean-ups and even a hunger strike, in turn convincing the mayor to ban all plastic bags in Bali by 2018. This proves that anybody at any age can make a real environmental change if they try.
Sunglasses, Coffee Cups, and Beyond…
A company in Los Angeles, Bureo was formed to make sustainable product design all the while reducing marine pollution. They are the first start-up to make sunglasses from 100 percent recycled fishing nets.Bureo has used 21,500 feet of recycled fishing nets since their start in 2012.
A café in New Zealand, Otago Polytechnic’s Eden Café has done away with takeaway cups. Before making this transition, they were giving away 190 cups a day, of which most were being thrown away. Now, customers are given a cup to stay or are served an old crockery from a secondhand store for them to keep. The patrons are happy with this change and are all able to participate in becoming a little more waste-free.
You Can #CrushPlastic!
There is a huge realization today that we are damaging our planet in many ways, plastic being a main culprit. More and more efforts are being made by eco-conscious individuals and scientists to find alternatives and recycle. Anyone can easily make a difference and chances are, others will follow along.
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source and give marine life a fighting chance,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet.
If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Lead image source: Jedimentat44/ Flickr