The Problems Presented By Plastic Misuse & How To Combat Them
Today plastics dominate our lives. We use a shocking amount of plastic on a daily basis, often without even realising it. Some of the day to day plastic that we use includes plastic carrier bags, water bottles, the packaging that our food is wrapped in, beauty products, sanitary towels and cleaning products.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, between 22 percent and 43 percent of the plastic used worldwide is disposed of in landfills. All this plastic is being wasted and more importantly, causing huge environmental problems.
It releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere when burnt, kills ocean life and leaves unnecessary waste all over our planet. Experts are now describing some of the oceans around Australia as a ‘plastic soup’ filled with all sorts of plastic debris. Is this really how we want to treat our planet?
Plastics are here to stay. Literally. In the environment plastics will photodegrade which means they break up into smaller and smaller pieces, but they won’t disappear. To manage the build up of our waste we have a few different options: landfill, burn, or attempt to recycle.
Plastic is a killer. It kills millions of seabirds and ocean creatures every year who get caught up in plastic debris and discarded fishing nets, or end up trying to ingest plastic. In recognition of their impact countries such as Bangladesh or China banned the use of single plastic bags fourteen years ago. The UK introduced a charge on single use plastic carrier bags in 2015.
What can you do to help?
Environmental and health issues are down to human behaviour. The good news is that this means that there is a recognisable solution, behaviour change. The bad news is that changing people’s behaviour worldwide isn’t an easy task. Plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems, yet it has a pretty straightforward solution: change behaviour.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Three simple words to live by. If we can reduce our consumption that is great. If you have to buy plastic then at least make an effort to reuse it. Many things can be safely reused over and over again. If you cannot reuse something then recycle it. A lot of plastics can’t be recycled so do check with your local authority.
Plastic water bottles
Can you invest in a long lasting bottle and save yourself the hassle and money of buying single use plastic bottles? People spend a lot more than they realise on plastic bottles each year, you could save quite a bit of money by investing in a reusable water bottle.
If you are caught out and you need to buy a plastic bottle, try and remember to take the lid off and rinse it out when you recycle it. Young children overseas painstakingly unscrew every bottle top from the plastic bottles so that the bottles can be recycled (different plastics) that high income countries ship for recycling.
Instead of using plastic bags, get into the habit of carrying a small foldaway bag in your handbag. Also when you are buying your weekly food shop, or any products, try and avoid buying things with lots of plastic packaging.
Make a song and dance
We need to start questioning companies not only why they are using so much plastic (it costs the earth but it also costs them and therefore us). Excessive packaging equals higher charges for us.
Can they look at innovative ways to protect our produce? Does a beauty or hygiene product really need plastic in it? It’s frustrating that more supermarkets don’t provide biodegradable bags such as corn based for fruit and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to question companies and try and inspire change.
These are just some of the things you can do to help. There are so many ways you can alter your lifestyle in order to help the environment. You might not think you can personally make a huge difference, but every little helps.
David is an expert on recycling and is passionate about helping to save our planet. He regularly writes for environmental, eco-living and recycling websites and is a key writer for kedel.co.uk, a company that sells recycled plastics.
…a directory of UK-based groups, organisations businesses and individuals who are responding to the problems presented by the misuse of plastic. That does not mean anti-plastic necessarily but certainly plastic-problem aware.
Got a project?
It is very easy to get a project featured. Each contributor submits a short synopsis of their project, focussing on the plastic aware element and I post it. You can read the submission guidelines here.
Well my Decathlon, unsustainable boy shorts have finally fallen apart and it is time to source some new, more ethical swim wear. Given my …. lets call it chunky…. form, this is an area where I feel I might have to go with lycra. Yes it’s plastic but I need it to keep my pants on. So I am looking at recycled, recyclable stretch swim wear as the way to go. Until I learn how to make my own, this is the best I can do and the only realistic option for those who can’t sew.
This is a very nice project…Davy Jones have just launched a ranges of swimwear made from ” 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste including spent and ghost fishing nets. And are designed to last longer, fighting the trend of throwaway fashion and creating something that can keep up with you in all conditions.
WE are looking to build a closed-loop resource system within the brand. While OUR SUITS ARE BUILT TO LAST, when THEY DO eventually reach the end of THEIR life, we want you to be able to return them to us and we will recycle or regenerate the resource content. The target will be to achieve 60% closed loop recycling by 2020.”
If I was younger, slimmer and richer I would go for a pair of these…..Rizboard Shorts for surfers – ladies and gents….
These are designed in London, made in Portugal, from recycled fabric and they have a recycling program to take back old shorts. Nice designs too. Some blurb for the website…
“Riz Smith, the founder and creative director, is a London-based designer and surfer. After years of designing swim and beachwear for various global brands, he became acutely aware of the need for something better. With this in mind he set out to build a small, honest brand shaped around the aspiration of creating ‘The most beautiful and sustainable swim shorts in the world’.WE DON’T WANT OUR SHORTS LITTERING LANDFILLS OR OCEANS. SO, IN AN EFFORT TO DO OUR PART WE’VE SET UP THE RIZCYCLING PROGRAMME.
This means working with our customers, you, to create a perpetual loop that transforms waste and old swimwear into beautiful new products.
Today all our shorts are made from 100% recycled and recyclable fabrics. By offering a 25% discount on a new pair of shorts, we encourage you to donate your old unwanted surf shorts for us to reuse or rehome.
Here’s another scheme I came across. For those of you who like a sustainable banana hammock….and who wouldn’t. Best of all worlds surely?
Aquafil & Speedo
Aquafil today announced it has partnered up with with Speedo USA. Aquafil, specializes in the production of a synthetic fabric called Econly Nylon 6. It is, according to Sustainable Brands, made from upcycled fishing nets, old carpets and other nylon products that have reached the end of their product life. Better still it is endlessly recyclable.
Speedo specialize in the manufacture of swimwear known for those very skimpy trunks known as budgie smugglers. The ones that make you avert your watering eyes.
Aquafil will be taking Speedo’s left over fabric scraps and turning it back into nylon fibre. This will be used to make PowerFLEX Eco fabric which will turned into more swimwear.
Powerflex consists is78 percent ECONYL nylon the rest is Extra Life LYCRA®.
An article in Sustainable Brands quotes Speedo as saying “the resulting fabric retains its shape up to 10 times longer than traditional swimwear fabrics, is resistant to chlorine, sagging and bagging and is offered in styles designed for both performance and fitness swimmers.”
The article claims that “ECONYL offers the same quality and performance as traditionally manufactured nylon and can be recycled an infinite number of times without any loss in quality.”
What it doesn’t say is how or indeed if you can recycle your trunks.However that should be a possibility. Patagonia uses a similar sort of fabric and runs a return and recycle scheme.
This fabric is also used in surfer Kelly Slater ‘s new men’s apparel line,Outerknown,
Ahoy there me hearties! Have I got a project for you! These Uk designers trawl the beaches for plastic which they turn into chairs with their home made plastic recycling machine. I know… so sweet! Now they need money to develop the project further! They want to go to sea with their machine and make stools on the high waves! And they have got 18 days to raise the cash. Come on this has to be worth a few quid!
VOYAGE INTO THE NORTH ATLANTIC GYRE WITH A SOLAR 3D PRINTER, TURNING OCEAN PLASTIC INTO BESPOKE FURNITURE – MADE AT SEA FROM THE SEA.
We have always been drawn to the sea, a fascination which led us to first conceive the ‘Sea Chair’ a project which is about making furniture using plastic that is polluting our oceans. We first heard about the huge problem of marine plastic in 2010, since then we have been designing a series of devices and contraptions to collect and process the sea plastic into sea chairs with tags indicating the geographic coordinates of where it was made.
The project began on a small beach in Cornwall, UK. We collected the plastic on the shore with self-made machines and turned them into chairs. Six months later, we went out to sea on fishing boats with a new improved furnace and made another sea chair with plastic caught in fishermen’s nets.
Since then the project has really grown and we have now designed and built a new machine – a plastic extruder which melts the plastic at sea with only the power of the sun, forming a 3D printer that is can be used either on sea or on land, far from any external power source and where plastic trash exists without the facilities to recycle them.
This October, we have an opportunity to go onboard the Sea Dragon – a 72ft vessel dedicated to research of plastic at sea. We will be sailing to the North Atlantic Gyre from the Azores Island to the Canaries. We are running this Kickstarter campaign to raise funding to join other scientist and ecologists on this journey with our new machine on board.
Gyres are where ocean currents converge creating a vortex of plastic fragments. A lot of awareness has been generated around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch but there isn’t a great public awareness or research about the problem in the North Atlantic Gyre. We want to take the project to the North Atlantic Gyre to make a design collection with the waste we remove, as well as a film that can really engage the public about the issue of sea plastic.
During the expedition we will be collecting plastic on the beaches for the Azores and Lanzarote as well as at sea. We will document the plastic collected and sort it to be processed with a machine we have built. The machine uses a parabolic mirror to melt the plastic with the energy from the sun. The extruded plastic can then be 3d printed into a range of objects that will all form a touring exhibition about the voyage.
Previously with ‘Sea Chair’ project we received numerous awards as well as coverage from design world and beyond with articles in global newspapers such as the Huffington Post and The Atlantic. The project also was awarded the gold award at the Design Biennale Slovenia in 2013 and the the film about the project received over 1/4 million views and picked up the 2nd prize at Cannes film festival.
On the back of this publicity we distributed our open source manual for people to build their own low cost furnace and Chair encouraging local beach cleaning and action against plastic waste.
For the first time we are offering our sea chairs as rewards you can buy.
With this Gyre project we want to engage people in the issue, too often the scale of the problem frightens or depresses people into fatalism, as if it’s too late and we are on an inevitable course, which leads to people not wanting to deal with it. That is why when reporting the problems of marine plastic we need to make something inspirational and capture the imagination as well as very real solutions that people can act on.
A complete illustrated manual of how to make your own Sea Chair + personal message from Studio Swine.
A postcard (6″x4″) from the journey with a personal thank you and a plastic sample from the North Atlantic Gyre.
Sea Tag keychain is made with collected sea plastic, with this reward you will also receive a password to access the Captain’s Log- a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
Synthetic fibres breakdown when washed and particles of plastic find their way into the Ocean. These unisex socks are made with natural Bamboo fibre which also has the benefit of being naturally deodorising. Each pair is hand dyed and embroidered. + Password to access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
A Sea Chair keyring with a brass shackle, monkey fist knot and a tag made with sea plastic + password access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
A box set containing a keyring, postcard, sea plastic and DIY manual + password access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
A box set containing keyring, 2 postcards, sea socks, and DIY manual + password access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
The Sea Knife is a sailing knife (13cmx2.5cm) with a high quality blade made from Japanese Stainless Steel. The handle is made from Sea Plastic with a granite-like appearance. You will also receive a photographic print and geographical co-ordinates of where it was made + password access to the Captain’s Log- a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
A box set containing a keyring, 2 postcards, sea plastic, sea socks, sea knife and DIY manual + password access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
A chair made with sea plastic with chromed steel legs. You will receive a photographic print and geographical co-ordinates of where it was made + password access the Captain’s Log – a blog with behind the scenes footage from the boat.
The Original Sea Chair Design with Sea Plastic legs and tagged withgeographical co-ordinates + original framed drawing + photographic print signed by Studio Swine + Studio visit and invitation to exhibition private view + password to access the Captain’s Log. (travel not included)
You will be the Official Sponsor of the film made by award winning Director Juriaan Booij. You will receive prominent credit and be mentioned in international press, future exhibitions and film festivals around the world.
Since the discovery of the Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997, which is predicted to measure twice the size of Texas, five more have been found across the world’s oceans with the Atlantic gyre predicted to be even larger. This plastic takes thousands of years to degrade, remaining in the environment to be broken up into ever smaller fragments by ocean currents.
More of a ‘plastic soup’ than a tangible mass, the gyre stretches from the coastlines of California to the shores of Japan. Recent studies have estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer of the world’s oceans. The number of plastic pieces in the Pacific Ocean has tripled in the last ten years and the size of the accumulation is set to double in the next ten.
Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
46 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form
Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body
Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
For more information on sea plastic, visit 5 Gyres
How will your money help us?
All the money raised from this campaign will go towards making this project happen. So far we’ve self funded the making of the machine, beach cleaning trips, travel, equipment etc. but the passenger fee on the boat is very expensive and we need your help to pay for our place on the boat. The money will also go towards making the rewards, the more rewards we sell the more plastic we can remove from the sea.
What happens if the funding exceeds the asking amount?
The money that is over the asking figure would go towards making our film. We are working with internationally acclaimed filmmaker Juriaan Booij who will make a beautiful short feature about the voyage, enabling us to share the journey with you and show the machine printing the product at sea. The film would bring the issue of Sea Plastic to a wider global audience and increase the calls for action.
Who is in the team?
Studio Swine – (Alexander Groves & Azusa Murakami) is a design studio based in London. We are interested in narratives, sustainability and vernacular design.
Andrew Friend – A keen sailor, mechanical genius and a designer. We have been collaborating with Andy to make the solar 3D printer for the journey.
Juriaan Booij – An award winning filmmaker. We have been working together with Juriaan for the past 3 years producing many exciting design films.
We will be collecting plastic everyday during the trip with a trawl net. In addition we will be collecting plastic from fishing boats on Azores and Canaries which have collected it in their nets and we will be joining beach cleans on both the islands. From experience beach cleaning in the UK we are confident we will recover more than enough plastic to make the rewards for more than double our funding goal. In the case that we far exceed our goal the funding would allow us to spend more time collecting plastic in the Atlantic.
Making the rewards
We have made all the objects offered as rewards already so we know the challenges and techniques very well. We make them in house so don’t rely on other manufacturers, getting funded would enable us to deal with sea plastic on a larger scale.
Making the solar extruder work
We have made countless solar ovens testing them in many different weather conditions on both on land and at sea, and have been successful at melting plastic with them.
In case of bad weather
We are travelling from Azores to the Canaries so there will be lots of sun. In case of poor weather conditions we will still be able to use the marine printer with a back up heating device.
Recycling synthetic carpets is not only possible but cost effective too!
Each year 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste is buried in UK landfill
Increasingly, businesses, householders and local authorities are looking for better alternatives for the recycling of unwanted carpet materials. We help ensure that the growing demand for carpet recycling services is met.
Carpets are made from natural and synthetic fibres, which still have a value once the carpet is no longer wanted; they can be used in a wide range of applications from sports surfaces to insulation.
Carpet Recycling UK is a not for profit membership association working to increase the recycling of carpet waste across the UK
Just read this article in Recycle Reminders about Dutch designer Dave Hakkens. He has just gone and made himself a plastic recycling machine that combines “a plastic shredder, extruder, injection moulder, and rotation moulder to create bins, lampshades, candle holders, and other knick-knacks from waste plastic. “I wanted to make my own tools so that I could use recycled plastic locally,” he said.”
Course you did, who doesnt? And he is not just clever but generous. Check this out.
“He plans to upload the blue prints of his project online, so that people the world over can set up their own recycling workshops and create new products from neighborhood waste. He hopes that ideas generated due to crowdsourcing can help improvise the prototype.”
It is almost impossible these days to buy unwrapped plastic free biscuit unless you live in Huddersfield where you can buy them loose.
But if you don’t, what to do? Give up biscuits…..hmmmmm.
OK, it’s not a great solution, but Mc Vities have started a biscuit wrapper recycling scheme. You save up the wrappers and post them off (for free with pre paid labels) and they get recycled. Its better then binning them. In their own words
“McVitie’s has recently teamed up with recycling experts TerraCycle to launch the McVitie’s Biscuit Wrapper Brigade. Biscuit wrappers are recyclable, but very little mixed plastic recycling is carried out by local council kerb side collections, resulting in millions of biscuit wrappers being sent to landfill. McVitie’s and TerraCycle’s initiative – a first for the industry – encourages consumers to help end this enormous waste of resources by sending in their used biscuit wrappers to be recycled. For more information, visit www.terracycle.co.uk.”
Please note, you need to send shipments that weigh at least 0.12 kg -approximately 50 units of biscuit wrappers.
So if you can’t refuse, at least you can recycle…. more tea vicar?
The focus of this blog is the plastic rubbish created by our addiction to disposable products. As a result I sometimes sound dismissive of recycling. As a solution for overconsumption of throw-away plastic products it is pants- boycott the ( plastic I mean not pants ). However as a solution to so many other plastic problems it is the bees knees.
Recycling is good and plastics are particularly suited to being recycled – and getting more so. It seems that as we built plastics, so we can now pull them apart and then rebuild them again… and again… and again …
Teijin for example developed a closed-loop, perpetual recycling system for polyester products whereby the products are broken down into polymers, and then processed into new fibre with characteristics equivalent to virgin fibres. The Tejin technology is featured in many of Patagonia’s outdoor garments.
Victor invented their own environmentally safe, closed-loop perpetual polyester recycling system powered by renewable hydroelectric energy. The fabrics made from this fibre are targeted at the interior design market.
Climatex‘s closed-loop system upholstery fabric is biodegradable. It is also good for human consumption and production waste is used as fertilizer by the farmers in the factory’s vicinity. The fabric is prominently flown around the world in the A380 Airbus.
There’s a lot to think about there
There are lots more ways to recycle, reuse and recraft waste plastic HERE
One of the most innovative plastic recycling companies I have come across is the Wales based Smileplastics. They make the most wonderful plastic sheeting out of old wellies, C.D.ds, banknotes and everything else.
“The material we buy often looks like multi-coloured cornflakes which we lay out by hand in our moulds and then press in our hydraulic presses. Through heat and thousands of tons, the material fuses and takes the shape of the mould before we cool it and take out a solid sheet of recycled plastic – our product.
Most of our sheets are made from 100% waste plastic – we don’t add any binding agents or resins, so it is simply the combination of heat and pressure that transforms the individual chunks or flakes into a complete board.”
These are not just recycled plastics but works of art with the main ingredient determining how the end product looks. The children’s rubber welly sheet is large blobs of colour and rubbery. The banknote features shredded banknote in clear plastic for the rolling in millions feel
The plastic sheets can be used for anything from furniture to work surfaces.