Plastic waste comprises about 12 percent of the total amount of garbage worldwide. More than eight million tons enter our ocean each year, a considerably portion of it as micro-plastic. Micro-plastic causes damage at every level of the food chain up to and possibly including the human level. Recently, it has been found in foods — honey, salt, beer and, of course, seafood.
Even if every particle of all the plastic in the world were relegated to landfills, it and the chemicals in it would gradually enter aquifers, shallow water tables, the ocean, ocean life, our food, and eventually us.
Since January 2018, China stopped recycling plastic shipped from other nations, plastic has become more expensive for sanitary services to process, and some types of plastic are no longer being accepted by these companies. People have been storing used plastic in basements. Landfills are getting completed filled up with it.
We stand at the frontier of plastic waste re-utilization, or in the current nomenclature, “up-cycling.” All over the developed and developing countries, inventors and entrepreneurs are discovering profitable ways to re-utilize plastic. Here are a few examples:
- Thousands of miles of road in India are now paved with bitumen-modified plastic. The roads have proved to be extremely durable and flexible.
- California-based TechniSoil fixes potholes with a plastic mix that lasts longer than the roads.
- Railroad ties are one of many “large-format structural polymer composite solutions” manufactured by Axion Structural Innovations in the UK. These plastic railroad ties are less than half the cost of wooden ones. Twenty million railroad ties have to be replaced every year.
- A simple process touted by Conceptos Plásticos in rural Colombia claims to have pressed Lego-like building blocks for inexpensive structures, including houses.
- Bureo / Netplus Alliance works with companies that make everything from desk chairs to sunglasses out of discarded fishing nets.
- Artists and garage-based tinkerers are experimenting with “precious plastic”: grinding, chipping, melting, extruding, pelletizing and molding plastic into jewelry, art, plant pots, wallets, beach bags and other items for sale.
The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation seeks to bring together entrepreneurs, governmental and civil authorities, charities and facilitating and funding organizations to discuss how best to up-cycle plastic in Lincoln County. Our goals are:
- To utilize existing collection sites in Lincoln County to make plastic available for up-cycling
- To identify and utilize one or more up-cycling processes to convert the plastic waste-stream into valuable products
- To connect with the scientific community for advice, research and testing
- To acquire funding for this important project
- To enable existing companies or entrepreneurs to profit from the sale of recycled pelletized plastic or up-cycled products
- To create a model system for up-cycling plastic that can be replicated by any community in the United States
Would you like to …
Stay informed? (We email a monthly “Plastics Up-Cycling in Lincoln County” newsletter).
Volunteer to help out with the project? (We’re looking for people who know about or have skills in plastics properties, plastics recycling or upcycling, waste management, government regulations, funding sources, administrative/secretarial skills or other knowledge/skills–or are just very willing to learn.)