Thinking Outside the Box: Innovative Solutions for Alternative Plastics
Plastic: so widely used, yet so damaging to the environment. One of the biggest challenges facing us in the 21st century is finding ways to reduce plastic usage – without compromising our standard of living. Plastic isn’t something that can simply be eliminated without finding suitable alternatives, so the key to helping rid the planet of polluting plastics is to find less damaging, more environmentally friendly options. It’s a different way of thinking altogether, but it’s one that many people are gradually becoming accustomed to.
At GreenSeas Trust, we pride ourselves on encouraging behavioural change. We want to keep you up to date with the latest advances in technology and keep the momentum up, encouraging innovation and new ways of thinking. To help, we’ve explored some of the most inventive solutions that are becoming viable alternatives to plastic, which could help form our plastic-free future. Here are some of our favourites:
- Cling film made from crab shells. Plastic wrap is an enormous challenge for the environment and many people use it as a day-to-day essential. Scientists have now found a way to create a cling film alternative using discarded crab shells and wood pulp, using layers of chitin and cellulose fibres on a polylactic acid base. Like all plastics, cling film never fully breaks down, so a solution can’t come soon enough. You can also try out other cling film alternatives, like beeswax wraps – or a good old-fashioned Tupperware.
- The only thing better than being able to recycle all plastic bottles is not needing plastic bottles at all! A London start-up have made seaweed pouches that can carry water in place of plastic bottles, and the cover can even be swallowed. If you don’t fancy eating them, then the covers will biodegrade in six weeks. You might have spotted these clever little capsules at the London marathon this year – hopefully that was just the boost they needed and this great idea will go from strength to strength.
- Mushroom-grown packaging. A great alternative to single-use plastic, this mushroom-based packaging might sound familiar. It’s made from mycelium, which comes from fungus, and it is fully compostable, decomposing in a matter of weeks. It’s very strong and cost effective to produce, so there as basically no negatives. Ikea have even started using it, so here’s hoping other retailers start to catch on.
- Biodegradable plastics made of milk proteins. Scientists are working to develop a biodegradable foam plastic that is made from milk protein mixed with clay, giving it additional strength and preventing it dissolving in water. It’s thought that it is strong enough to be used commercially – and yet it will break down within 30 days. Amazing stuff.
- Palm leaves. You might associated palm leaves with a lot of negativity and the destructiveness of palm oil. But palm leaves can be a great resource as well. Some companies are now using fallen palm leaves from naturally growing trees to make a range of products – and it’s fully compostable. You can get anything from tableware to bags to packaging.
- Magnetic additives to replace non-recyclable multilayers. The primary purpose of this is to replace aluminium coatings, which are non-recyclable and are found in multilayer materials. This new additive can be used in recyclable and compostable plastics, making them better for the environment long term. They are currently being Aronax Technologies, who won an award for their work in 2018.
Why is it so Important to Find Viable Alternatives to Plastic?
Plastics are causing enormous amounts of damage to our planet and they are especially destructive in our oceans. Many plastics that are disposed of irresponsibly end up in the ocean – there are more than 5.25 trillion plastic particles in the sea already and that number’s only going to continue to grow. Plastic that enters the oceans is hazardous to marine life and it is even getting into the food chain. It’s essential that we find viable alternatives to plastic as soon as possible, before we cause irreversible damage to our oceans and to our planet.
It’s also worth noting that many plastic alternatives out there are actually doing more harm than good. It can take a lot of energy to produce them, and many claim to be fully biodegradable, but in reality they won’t break down for many years. Make sure you do your research and check out the truths behind these ‘innovations’ – they’re not always as good as they appear on the surface.
In the meantime, we need to make sure that we are dealing with the plastic that we use responsibly. We need to reuse where possible, and dispose of plastic responsibly so they can be recycled. This is why we are so passionate about our #BinForGreenSeas project. We are putting bins in coastal areas to make people think about their behaviour, reminding them about the importance of recycling and disposing of their waste responsibly. In the future, perhaps we’ll be able to eradicate single use plastics and rely on alternatives. Until then, we need to commit to responsible and proactive methods of dealing with single use plastics. And our #BinForGreenSeas is an integral part of this.
Help us fight plastic wastage. Help us work towards plastic-free oceans.