It’s that time of year again! Plastic-Free July has come around, and we’re here to raise awareness on how to live more plastic-free this month.
It’s not easy to live completely plastic-free in our current society. But we can certainly start implementing small 1%ers that reduce the amount of single-use or non-recyclable plastic we use in our lives.
This blog post will cover different recycling systems, biodegradable vs. home compostable plastics, some hacks to minimise plastic and over waste around the house, and innovative methods of recycling and upcycling that we can expect to see in the future.
It's no secret that our habits have polluted the land, riverways, and oceans. But while it is daunting to think about the amount of waste and damage that has happened over the years, we do have hope that our human innovation and resourcefulness that got us into this mess will also help get us out.
Let’s take a look at how we can pull it off!
Different recycling systems - Closed Loop vs. Open Loop
When it comes to recycling, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. We’re still a decade away from having efficient systems globally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work with what we already have. Currently, most recycling is open-loop, but we want to move towards more closed-loop systems as soon as possible.
Closed-loop recycling is where we should aim to be in the future. Once disposed of, a product can be broken down into raw materials and reused to make a new product. An example of this would be plastic bottles that can be melted down into raw plastic material and turned back into what it was originally. If a closed-loop recycling system is implemented, the ultimate goal is to successfully reuse the materials in an infinite cycle without degrading material quality. This eliminates the need to create new resource-intense raw materials for a particular consumer product.
Open-loop recycling is the current state of most recycling initiatives. It means that once disposed of, we can turn a product into raw material for another industry. For example, we may reuse plastic bottles in a fleece jacket. However, this will be the last thing the raw material is used for, as it will have to be discarded into landfills after use. The raw materials degrade in quality over a couple of re-cycles. Essentially, an open-loop recycling system means that the raw material will eventually make its way out of the loop.
Biodegradable vs. Home Compostable
Biodegradable but not home compostable products are widely misleading as there is no universal certification and standard. They are also challenging to manage in our current waste system as they require a specific environment. An easy way to remember the difference is by keeping in mind that all compostable products are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable.
Compostable products may be made from organic compounds such as corn starch, Hemp, or bagasse. While composting, the products will produce Humus, a vital part of all soils. It’s also important to remember that it takes the proper environmental conditions to break down properly, so the time it takes may vary.
Biodegradable products break down into microplastics through exposure to the elements. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s amplifying the problems we have with microplastics in our environment. Companies greenwashing their polymer-based materials as biodegradable are not honest about the damage caused. You should not throw biodegradable plastics into the environment.
Tips for minimizing plastic & other waste around the home
- Composting food scraps
- Take reusables with you if practical. Bento box (seed & sprout), coffee cup (huskee), cutlery (green & kind), water bottle/smoothie cup.
- Cut down on purchasing fast fashion and buy quality staples that can last for seasons.
- Remember your reusable shopping bags when you go to the grocery store - We know, it’s easy to forget!
- Buy in bulk or from bulk food stores if there is one local to you
- Shop at farmers' markets if there is one local to you to help save on food miles
- Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Try to do the best you can while remembering that you are a part of a bigger system of change that is shifting towards a greener world. I know it can feel hopeless at times. When you learn that recycling glass is far worse than c02 emissions and talk to major companies and brands about the future of packaging, there are some exciting things in the pipeline.
Future innovative methods for waste recycling
Despite being imperfect, various exciting methods of dealing with waste are currently developing. Some of these may change how we view the issues we’re now facing. Imagine if we could use all the trash we’ve created for actual productive activities?
Select regions are trialling the possibility of turning landfills into energy. The current technique being trialled in Moreton Bay, QLD, will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by landfills by capturing the methane and turning it into energy. Dakaba, Bunya, and Caboolture all have methane capture facilities built into their landfill areas, with the combined potential of generating enough power for up to 7000 homes.
New research has developed a way to turn recycled plastics into nanomaterials and high-quality fuel. The technology can turn plastic into carbon nanotubes and clean liquid fuel, offering a green & smart solution for upcycling plastic and agricultural waste in one fell swoop.
Don’t be afraid; not all is lost yet! Humanity still has a few tricks that might just pull through for earth in the nick of time.
Are you ready to make some changes this plastic-free July? Let us know what you’re going to be doing!