This is about 05·11·2019
From linear to a circular economy: a new era for plastic lifestyle
One year after the launch of the Global Commitment to the New Plastic Economy, which promotes a new circular economy for the material, its first annual report reveals progress in reducing the use of virgin plastic, plastic pollution, and a growing demand in recycled plastics.
The new report prepared by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), published this October, 2019, offers optimistic data on a positive evolution in the use of plastics.
Among the initiatives which are being promoted by many companies, there is the elimination of problematic plastic packaging, and promoting the use of recycled plastic, multiplying its use by 5 from 4% to 22% before 2025. The objective is that all plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable, and its circulation is safe, preventing it from becoming waste or contamination.
Unilever has announced that it will reduce its use of virgin plastic in containers by 2025, while Mars Incorporated claimed it will make a 25% reduction and PepsiCo 20%. Among the signatory organisations of the Global Commitment, these are eliminating the most problematic plastics on a scale: single-use straws, black carbon plastics and bags, and PVC in the containers.
Although they are commitments which show positive progress, the actions from the 400 organisations involved, between governments and private companies, is just the beginning of a long journey ahead. According to the UN, efforts must be accelerated and scaled up, and more companies and governments are encouraged to make greater commitments, to look for innovations and to take more actions that go beyond recycling and eliminating the most problematic packaging. Through innovation, a redesign of the supply chain and products, and new business models, economic opportunities open up.
Do you know how the use of plastic has developed in recent decades? The UN explain this question on this interactive website.
But … Is plastic an enemy?
Plastic has been a material which has provided an evolution in innumerable fields, namely: medicine, the expansion of clean energies from wind turbines and solar panels; even food preservation saw development.
More than the material, the problem is its abuse. Its low cost and its durability have made us dependent on a material, which has been extended as a single-use or disposable material. Today, plastic containers represent approximately half of the plastic waste in the world, and only 9% of the nine billion tons of plastic which have been produced so far in the world have been recycled (from which remains, 12% has been incinerated, and 79% disposable in landfills or in the environment). More than 99% of plastics are also manufactured from petroleum products, natural gas or coal, which are polluting and non-renewable resources.
Currently, we produce 300 million tons of plastic waste per year. The weight of all humanity. Half of the plastic are single-use items which have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 minutes; however, it can take between 400 and 1.000 years or more to disintegrate.
How to go plastic free: material new era
Governments and organisations are taking actions towards reducing the plastic footprint, and we are entering the eco-design age. New formulas for plastic begin to be investigated as substitutes. Materials made from fungi, seaweed, potato starch and millet to produce edible materials; banana trees, cassava and shrimp shells as well.
But … how can we replace single-use plastics today? These are just some of the ideas:
- Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush with natural bristles, and natural fiber floss coated with beeswax. Replace disposable razor blades.
- Bank on natural cosmetics and use hair products which do not contain plastic ingredients such as silicone and petroleum. Try shampoos in refillable glass containers or natural bars.
- Use cotton, organic cotton or hemp fiber towels instead of disposable cotton swabs or wipes.
- Avoid using balloons at parties and celebrations, and discard glitter. Use bamboo or metal straws, and plates, glasses and cutlery made of materials such as wood or bamboo.
- Replace baking paper with materials such as reusable silicone oven mats or Silpat, which are not treated with Teflon (PTFE, PFOA).
- Use non-plastic reusable water bottles; use non-plastic reusable cups. Recycle your existing plastic and reduce its use, and of course, do not litter.
- Supermarkets are one of the main sources of plastics. Remember to take reusable shopping bags with you, and smaller ones for fruits and vegetables. There are those with different sizes which are reusable, washable and breathable.
- Wrap your lunch in non-plastic or disposable containers, and avoid using transparent film. Some alternatives are paper bags, reusable snack holders without BPA or beeswax papers, or adjustable silicone caps.
- Opt for natural fabrics and textiles, and reduce clothing made of synthetic plastic fabrics.
Sustainability is also fashionable
Fast fashion must also find alternatives. Initiatives such as the H&M’s, which has launched the Conscious collection with garments made from recycled materials or materials with a lower environmental impact, such as polyester obtained from used PET bottles, organic cotton and TENCEL™ lyocell.
According to Pascal Brun, the head of Sustainability for the company, “the objective is to have a positive impact on people and communities, be totally circular in our positive value chain for the environment, and finally, inspire and make it possible for everyone to take responsible decisions. To get one hundred percent materials with a sustainable origin by 2030 and to continue the investigation of alternative materials in fabrics, such as orange fiber or leather from grapes”.
Plastic waste is now the largest available resource on our planet. While researchers work on the development of biodegradable materials, the field of art and design offers ways to join this fight against the abuse of plastics.
The Alma shoe and the Origem bag, from the Melissa company, are made of non-toxic and cruelty-free thermoplastics, which are manufactured with 0% production waste.
There are many designers who are developing creations with green awareness. An example of this is Guiltlessplastic, a project by the Milanese gallery owner, Rossana Orlandi, for the design community to address the problem of plastic from artistic creation. In the initiative, Ro Plastic-Master’s Pieces shows how to turn it into durable valuables, with aesthetic and meaning.
Cubitts: waste that improves our vision. From 10 waste materials, the Cubittsha glasses company creates a collection of handmade eyeglasses.
Oliver Cabell’s Phoenix is a 3D printed shoe made from recycled plastic bottles.
Prada launched Re-Nylon as part of the brand’s sustainability efforts, which banned the use of fur in May, partnering with the textile yarn producer Aquafil, manufacturer of Econyl, a fiber created from nylon waste found on items which include fishing nets and carpet panels. It plans to be free of virgin nylon by 2021.
About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
Since 2010, it has worked for the acceleration in the transition to a circular economy, placing it on the agenda of decision makers worldwide. The organisation’s work focuses on seven key areas: knowledge and analysis, business, institutions, governments and cities, systemic initiatives, circular design, learning and communications.
On the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP):
UNEP is the world’s leading environmental authority, which in collaboration with governments, the private sector, civil society and other international organisations; leads and encourages the joint care of the environment, enabling nations to improve their quality of life without compromising future generations.
Design22·03·2019The latest report by the United Nations estimates that water shortages will have affected 5.700 million people by 2050. The Drops Roof system plates, the SmartWater device and the ECO technology applied to bathroom equipment all promote the conscious and responsible use of energy.