The new plastic economy

Posted on 24 March 2016.

Circular designs, responsible production... Worldwide initiatives are emerging that offer solutions to the dilemma of plastic waste.

In 2014, 311 million metric tons of plastic were produced worldwide and 8 million metric tons of plastic waste went straight into our oceans. An alarming fact revealed in the latest report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It also estimates that by 2050 the sea will contain more plastic waste than fish...

It is essential therefore to develop a new plastic economy  - one that is more accountable and sustainable. The potential is huge! For several years now, initiatives have been emerging focusing on developing more circular models or on developing new production methods.

In France, the SME Canibal, which collects plastic cups from businesses, recently patented an invention which it has named "Caniplac". It’s an eco-material developed by mixing melted plastic cups with minerals. The resulting sheets can be used to make furniture, flooring and even partition walls.

Same principle can be seen in Africa, where a new recycling solution is spreading. Plastic waste is melted and mixed with sand in order to create bricks. These are then used to build homes or simply to pave the streets!

As for new responsible production methods, the New York company Ecovative has succeeded in developing a material similar to polystyrene, but which is biodegradable. Its secret ingredient? A fungus! The company recovers residues from local agriculture (cotton waste, corn hulls, etc.), mixes these with water and nutrients and then incorporates the fungus mycelium. The mixture is then placed in molds for four days, the incubation period required for the fungus to develop sufficiently to bring together all the properties of polystyrene. It’s a formula that has already won over Dell computers which will use it for some of its components.

SPhere, the leading European household packaging business, has also developed plastic from natural resources, "Blueplast". Its particularity is that it biodegrades completely in contact with water, in just two years. One way of fighting maritime pollution. But above all an invention that gives us hope that fish will still be the main inhabitants of our oceans for a long time to come...