Increasingly, consumers and businesses are looking for ways to live and work in ways that are gentler to the environment. A big aspect of this is reducing plastic waste. A wide variety of businesses around the world are looking at innovative ways to fight plastic waste. It’s hard to select the best ways businesses are fighting plastic waste, but we’ve selected a few that particularly piqued our interest.
8 Exciting Ways Businesses Are Fighting Plastic Waste
Plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems facing our world right now. It contributes to climate change, pollution, fills up landfills, destroys environments and wildlife, and more. Previously, we’ve discussed ways that businesses can battle plastic waste. Today, let’s take a look at real businesses that are using innovation and ingenuity to reduce plastic waste.
1. Notpla’s Seaweed Plastic
One of the essential ways businesses are fighting plastic waste is by creating alternative materials which can be recycled easily, or which can decompose safely into compost. Notpla is one such business. Notpla says they are “making packaging disappear” and it’s not just a clever phrase. This company is making packaging from biodegradable and even edible materials, like seaweed, to stop plastic from filling up trash cans, landfills, and beaches. Their edible pods or bubbles helped to hydrate runners at the London Marathon, eliminating the need for thousands of plastic bottles.
2. Refillable Containers
Another important way that businesses are fighting plastic waste is to remove the need for it. Thousands of refill shops and businesses using refillable containers are doing just that. It’s difficult to pin down just one refill shop or the business using refillable containers. Zero-waste or refill shops are popping up all over the country and all over the world, allowing customers to cut out plastic containers by bringing their own reusable containers. Many coffee shops now allow customers to bring their own reusable mugs. Twice the Ice helps customers skip the plastic bag by allowing easy and cheap refills directly to coolers or other containers. Increasingly, businesses are reducing packaging by allowing reusable containers.
3. Thealy’s Recycled Sneakers
Often, plastic waste, chemical pollution, and worker exploitation are all produced together by neglectful and exploitative business management. For decades, many of the biggest brands producing fashion and athletic gear have widened profits through sweatshop labor. These companies produce products by paying workers, usually women and children, mere cents an hour in grueling and toxic working environments. They also source materials irresponsibly, with little to no regard for carbon emissions, toxic waste in the air or waterways, plastic waste, and more.
In many cases, multiple solutions can be produced together by thoughtful and careful business practices, too. Many small businesses are showing that fashion and athletic products can be an opportunity, not for exploitation, but for improvement. Thealy is one company showing the good that shoes can do; each shoe uses “100% recycled materials, specifically utilizing ten plastic bags and twelve plastic bottles,” according to their website. They also pay their workers fairly, providing safe and comfortable working environments, and help lift vulnerable people out of poverty.
4. The Ocean Cleanup Project
Stopping plastic waste at the source is essential to stop this problem from getting worse. However, millions of tons of waste are already polluting the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup is dedicated to capturing, extracting, and responsibly recycling or eliminating the garbage polluting the ocean. Using innovative technology, this organization is removing garbage from the ocean and stopping more from entering by cleaning up the most impactful waterways. According to their website, “The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040.”
5. Building Blocks From Recycled Plastic
Concrete’s strength has made it a preferred building and paving material around the world, but it is also putting incredible strain on the environment. Between buildings, roads, sidewalks and more, about 30 billion tons of concrete is used each year, worldwide. As populations and cities expand, this number is growing rapidly. Concrete and cement production results in high carbon emissions; between 4-8% of total global CO2 emissions come from concrete. This means the cement industry is one of the two largest sources of CO2 emissions in the world.
Inventive businesses are looking at ways to avoid concrete, and while also putting waste plastic to use. ByFusion invented the ByBlock, which uses no glues or adhesives, and is “made entirely from repurposed, often un-recyclable plastic waste,” according to their website. It uses 83% less CO2 emissions than concrete blocks, and can turn plastic that would’ve been trash into walls, sheds, terracing, furniture, and more.
On the other side of the world, young inventor and engineer Nzambi Matee founded Gjenge Makers Ltd in Nairobi, Kenya with a similar idea. With a proprietary method and equipment, Gjenge Makers Ltd combines sand and plastic waste to make paving blocks that are twice as strong as concrete, and half the weight. Matee and her company are not only tackling plastic waste and creating affordable, sustainable building materials, but also creating valuable job opportunities for some of Kenya’s most vulnerable people.
6. EcoPlast Solution’s Homes From Plastic Bottles
EcoPlast Solutions is another company reinventing building materials. They’re building complete homes using recycled materials. According to their website, they are “revolutionizing home construction with building panels made from recycled plastic bottles. This is a way to get rid of plastic waste and at the same time build healthier and more resilient homes.” One home utilizes more than 600,000 recycled plastic bottles, providing a massive opportunity not only for housing, but also for recycling waste that often isn’t recycled.
7. Habbio Furniture From Recycled Materials
Over 90% of furniture ends up in a landfill at the end of its life. Worse, very few furniture items are made from recycled or upcycled materials. Habbio is taking a different approach. According to their website, “Everything that goes into our furniture is recycled, or sustainably sourced if a recycled alternative isn’t available. That means beautifully soft fabrics made from recycled bottles, recycled alternatives to foam fillings and wood that is certified as sustainably sourced.
Habbio doesn’t stop there, either. They also create a safe working environment for their workers and pay above a living wage. They also say, “We’re going to become completely circular in production, by using 100% recycled materials (we’re 85% at the minute), and creating no waste at all (down from 5% at present). We’ll also become carbon neutral by 2030 at the latest.”
8. Recycled Plastic for 3D Printers
Though it isn’t a business, the Polyformer machine is an honorary mention on the list of businesses fighting plastic waste. The Polyformer machine was created by designer Reiten Cheng, and it is fully available to anyone with access to a 3D printer. Cheng’s machine was not only printed from recycled plastic, but the machine itself turns plastic bottles into filament for 3D printers. Instead of profiting on his design, Cheng made the design completely open-source, with manuals available online for anyone who wishes to create the Polyformer machine for themselves.
These are just a few of the many businesses fighting plastic waste around the world using creative and innovative strategies. With these and many more inventors, designers, entrepreneurs, our plastic waste problem may one day transform into extraordinary solutions.