The negative health impacts of plastic on both wildlife and humans have been well-documented. However, the versatile material, which is used for everything from grocery bags to drink bottles to food packaging, is hard to avoid. Experts estimate that of the 359 million tons of plastics produced annually worldwide, about 150–200 million tons end up in landfills or the environment. To make matters worse, the material derived from the small percentage of plastic that is recycled is of lower quality and can only be used a few times for items like clothing or carpets before it has to be discarded.
The East African country of Kenya has been at the forefront of the global war on plastic since 2017, when officials outlawed plastic bags. In June 2020, the government upped the ante with a ban on single-use plastics in protected areas. Unfortunately, the preemptive measures have barely made a dent. Hundreds of tons of industrial and consumer polymer waste continue to get dumped into landfills daily. However, if 29-year-old Nzambi Matee has her way, the unsightly plastic heaps will soon be transformed into colorful bricks.
The invention of plastic has been a double-edged sword for humanity. While the cheap, versatile material has made life convenient, it is virtually indestructible and takes centuries to decompose. Since avoiding plastic is impossible, companies worldwide are coming up with innovative ways to repurpose the millions of tons of polymer waste that end up in our landfills annually. Among the latest is California-based TechniSoil Industrial, which has devised an ingenious way to reuse plastic waste to repave roads.
With an estimated 100,000 marine animals being choked, suffocated, or injured by plastic every year, the danger posed by the trillions of pieces of polymer floating in our oceans is well-known. However, given that most of the microplastics measure less than 0.5mm in diameter, collecting them is a challenging task. Now, some Dutch environmentalists have devised a way to not only capture plastic waste before it reaches the open seas and disintegrates, but to also use it to create a public park and wildlife sanctuary.
On Monday, April 22, 2019, corporations worldwide will encourage employees to celebrate Earth Day by participating in activities like neighborhood or beach clean-ups, planting trees, or biking/walking to work. While the one-day enthusiasm to care for our planet certainly helps, to make a real difference, companies have to incorporate sustainability into their everyday operations. Here are a few businesses that are making an impact beyond Earth Day.
Every April 22, over a billion people around the world celebrate Earth Day by participating in neighborhood clean-up activities and environmental teach-ins. The planet's largest civic event began in 1970 when twenty million Americans poured out onto the streets to urge lawmakers to take action to protect the environment before it was too late. Now boasting over 50,000 partners in 195 countries, the Earth Day Network (EDN) has led to the establishment of numerous environmental policies, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Clothing made from synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon, has many positive attributes. It is cheap to produce, lasts for a long time, and is comfortable to wear. However, the fabric, made from petroleum, has one major downside. The tiny polymer strands — or what we call lint — that shed from the textiles during each laundry cycle are big contributors to plastic pollution. Now, some scientists from Lithuania have found a way to recycle the textile waste into clean energy.
Japan, the host country of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has promised to deliver "the most innovative Games ever organized." On July 24, 2019, a year before the competition begins in Tokyo on July 24, 2020, the Olympic Committee unveiled its first ingenious idea — medals made using precious metals extracted from discarded electronics.