Sustainability Problem: Unmitigated Growth of Plastic Waste
Plastic waste is the single largest problem the world faces today, and yet there is no stopping the demand for this convenient, durable, and cheap material. We’ve already produced 8.3 MM metric tons of plastic since 1950s, and that number is projected to increase to 26 MM metric tons by 2050 if we don’t alter our consumption patterns.
It takes over 400 years for plastic to degrade, making it necessary for us to re-use and recycle what we already have. But the reality is that less than 9% of plastics have actually been recycled, which means that most end in landfills and eventually into our oceans. There are many drawbacks in using this material, from increased use of fossil fuels, the leaching of toxins in our water and food supply, to increasing health problems for all life forms.
Sustainability Technology: Bioplastics
It’s difficult to alter human behavior and simply forcing people to stop using plastic won’t fix the overarching problem. There is no other material in the world which can provide all the benefits of plastic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be created. The Full Cycle Bioplastics company has developed technology that uses organic waste to make their version of bioplastics.
They start by accumulating organic waste which is broken down to act as feed-stock for PHA (polyesters produced in nature). The organic waste is first put into controlled fermentation tanks, after which they are then moved to environmentally controlled production tanks. Here, naturally occurring bacteria consumes the waste and eventually converts it into PHA. Finally, upon completion, the PHA is harvested, dried, and processed into a finished resin that can be molded for customized use (i.e. bags, containers, utensils, water bottles, etc.). And because there are no GMOs used in the production process nor any need to cultivate crops, production costs drop significantly. This alone is a fantastic development, since the major drawback to bioplastics is the production related expense.
The company produces true compostable plastic material, which can be made from food waste, dirty paper/cardboard, or agriculture products. Because the raw materials are all organic, there is no toxicity and is safe to discard. In fact, if it finds its way to the ocean, it can actually act as fish or bacteria food!
The technology once refined can be scalable and serve as a secondary revenue stream for cities. Residents and food establishments routinely throw away organic waste. But if they are incentivized to collect and sell this it instead, then we not only have a solution to the plastic problem, but also a viable solution to the food waste problem…black is certainly the new gold in this case! With a little bit of ingenuity and a rock-solid framework, this technology can very likely be the world’s saving grace.
“In the next 30 years, we’ll make four times more plastic waste than we ever have” Science, Giorgia Guglielmi, 7/19/2017, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/next-30-years-we-ll-make-four-times-more-plastic-waste-we-ever-have
FULL CYCLE BIOPLASTICS – Company website, http://fullcyclebioplastics.com/menu/
“Twin brothers convert organic waste into truly biodegradable plastic” Inhabitat, Lacy Cooke, 10/27/2017, https://inhabitat.com/twin-brothers-convert-organic-waste-into-truly-biodegradable-plastic/
- Farmers & Food Processors to sell their organic waste
- Waste Haulers & Compost Facilities to accumulate organic waste
- Biorefineries for scaling PHA production
- Cities looking to reduce their ecological footprint
- Consumers wanting a better alternative for plastic without comprising use
Technology Implementation & Distribution:
Engage with food & beverage manufacturing companies by showcasing the quality of PHA. Conduct presentations and hold on-site visits to allow company official to familiarize themselves with the product. Upon successful pilot tests, reach out to larger companies with results in hand.
Work with food processing companies and restaurants to encourage organic waste collection. The company can acquire the needed raw material for a reasonable cost, while the businesses are offered a secondary revenue stream AND save on waste removal costs.
Speak to city officials to showcase the potential for this innovation on both an environmental and financial scale. Seek their support to push out this technology in a decentralized fashion, encouraging a closed loop cycle between organic waste and PHA production.
Ensure that the company can meet implementation demands in a seamless fashion and keep up communication with clients. Feedback communication is imperative especially when solidifying quality control measures.
By: Bhoomi Shah, UNI: brs2147
Comment on “ENERGY, WATER AND INTERNET – ALL IN ONE” by GABRIELGUGGISBERG
This is great solution to extremely pressing problems in 3rd world countries. This system captures solar energy through photovoltaic panels that converted into electricity through an internal 140 kwh battery. It treats water through a graphene-based filtering process and can deliver 5,000 liters of safe drinking water daily. It also serves as a charging station for devices and offers internet service for an 800 mile radius. Talk about a WIN-WIN-WIN! Tests have already been completed in Ghana and the company is looking at Nigeria and Sudan as their second test country.