....Create a Plastic Waste Based, Chemical Intermediary Lemonade!
Check out video here:
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again.
Cumulatively, only 9% of plastic has been actually recycled.
Sounds pretty inefficient, doesn’t it?
If you scored 9% on a test, chances are you wouldn’t be considered very proficient in the subject matter.
And yet, we go on – business as usual - when the plastic pollution crisis continues to escalate.
(Read our blog post HERE where we explore possible ways about how to change global industrial, manufacturing, and business practices)
For those new to the topic, let’s very quickly look at the data to see why this is indeed, a global crisis and should be treated as such.
First off, plastic production, consumption, and recycling rates all have to be looked at CUMULATIVELY.
(we generally start at 1950 – when global plastic mass production got serious)
Why is that? Cause' most plastic doesn’t biodegrade and.......
…….IT AIN'T GOING NOWHERE!
8.3 BILLION tons of plastic produced since 1950.
2.6 BILLION tons of plastic are still in use today.
That gives us, cumulatively, 5.7 billion tons of plastic garbage.
Out of the 5.7 billion tons of garbage, approx.. 700 million tons have been incinerated.
Why not incinerate everything?
In short, plastics are very stable when compared with traditional waste, so they release a ton of toxic chemicals as well as C02 when burned.
Just as alarming, incinerating plastics can also increase airborne microplastics in our food and water supply!
That might be the only good news about plastic in landfills – plastics don’t break down at all there, and therefore emit virtually no C02 when buried.
This is why most environmental scientists would say that when it comes to plastic, primarily due to climate change, landfills are better than incineration.
The BBC explains, “Elena Polisano, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace UK reluctantly agrees. She told BBC News:
"We should reduce, reuse, and recycle, in that order.
"When we get to the stage of deciding whether to burn or bury waste, we have already failed, failed some more and then failed again.
"However, it is safer to contain that failure than to spread it through the atmosphere in the form of toxic gases."
To be clear though, both options are bad – and kind of like deciding whether you prefer a cheeseburger or pizza right after a workout.
So now that we’ve cleared up why incineration rates aren’t higher (and also keep in mind, less toxic and less C02 emitting incineration facilities are rare, and can also be mind-blowingly expensive), we come to landfills.
Roughly 5 billion tons of plastic are currently in landfills.
And just for fun, that’s equivalent in weight to roughly 15,000 empire state buildings or 48 million of the largest animals that have ever lived - blue whales.
And in our oceans alone, that number could double as early as 2030!
And although recycling rates are improving, we are still not even treading water at this point – we are still drowning!
One of the biggest problems with recycling rates are that plastics can be complicated to recycle.
On each plastic product produced, you probably noticed a small, embossed number with chasing arrows in the form of a triangle, around a number.
This is called a resin code – and there are only seven of them.
However, resin codes DO NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL recyclability.
Saint Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium’s, Eureka Recycling, explains:
“This code can be misleading, since it is not intended to indicate that the plastic is recyclable.
Rather, the resin code is used by the plastics industry to indicate the general type of chemical compound used to make the product.”
There are literately thousands of plastic varieties in use today despite only 7 resin codes, and for resin codes 3 through 7, there are very few recycling programs even in highly developed countries that even ACCEPT THEM due to increased costs.
We need a better way to recycle.
One of the most promising startups, BioCellection, has a new idea entirely.
Convert the 91% of existing plastic waste that’s either too costly, difficult, or contaminated (too old, weathered, broken down, too much sunlight, etc.) for traditional plastic recycling…….
…..into the world’s first chemical intermediates made from plastic waste!
What are chemical intermediates?
The Encyclopedia of Brittanica gives a pretty good definition:
“A chemical intermediate is any chemical substance produced during the conversion of some reactant to a product. Most synthetic processes involve transformation of some readily available and often inexpensive substance to some desired product through a succession of steps. All the substances generated by one step and used for the succeeding step are considered intermediates.”
In other words, many complex man-made synthetic products NEED several chemical intermediates to help raw materials become finalized products.
These intermediates formed from the process become products such as succinic acid, glutaric acid, adipic acid, pimelic acid, suberic acid, and azelaic acid – they are used textile production around the world and are vital in the process.
Currently, intermediates are made out of petroleum, but BioCellection has found a way to REPLACE petroleum in this process with PLASTIC unfit for traditional recycling!
How it Works:
According to Forbes:
“Their startup BioCellection turns each ton of plastic trash into more than $2,500 worth of chemicals and prevents 20 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.”
This startup, founded in 2015 by Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao, has already received over $3 million in funding from Silicon Valley – and they are continuing to innovate and refine their chemical processes.
“Designing this system is challenging, and our team has only developed a first version.
Our prototype employs a chemical reflux technique to supply energy to the reaction over time. Using this system design, we have achieved up to 80% plastic waste to product conversion within 3 hours.”
BioCellection unique technology has several advantages over many other solutions to help solve the plastic pollution crisis.
For example, unlike bioplastics, which rely on natural materials, Biocellection is also tackling the problem of 5+ billion tons of EXISTING plastic waste and not just creating future alternatives.
Although this is just one of the very exciting start ups that is helping fight against the plastic pollution crisis, we strongly believe that improving the plastic recycling process itself though better technology and better waste management infrastructure is crucial towards this effort.
But when comparing 400+ years in a landfill, to creating commercially viable products - in just 3 hours......we think they are off to an amazing start!
Check out their progress so far!