Dirk Campbell has just written about the Plastic waste problem in a wonderfully concise, information-packed way: “Effective safe disposal is the only realistic way of solving the problem. Two ways in which this might be achieved are plasma gasification and microbial digestion. Plasma gasification involves heating a material up to such a high temperature that it turns into gas, when it can be burned, producing energy but almost no air pollution or solid residue. Microbial activity was recently discovered in a Japanese landfill site. A bacterium subsequently named Ideonella Sakaiensis was found to be feeding on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is what plastic bottles are made of. Ideonella breaks down the complex polymer chains into simpler molecules that can be reused. Maybe it can be trained to feed on other plastics in quantities sufficient to eat away the plastic problem.
Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup device (see video) is a wonderful huge floating sieve designed to collect plastic in the Pacific gyre, currently under development and expected to be fully operational by 2020. This is a very hopeful solution to the ocean plastic waste problem. We still need to prevent plastic waste from going into the ocean though. And Boyan will still be left with the problem of what to do with all the collected plastic. He says recycle it but I don’t think he can have looked into the problem of recycling mixed plastics. One solution is to compress it into building blocks… It remains to be seen how successful and how permanent such structures will be. Plastic is light, strong and indestructible as we know, but is a fire hazard (like the Grenfell Tower cladding), squashes under heavy weight and can’t absorb moisture, so you can only have single story houses that are a bit of a fire risk and will cause condensation problems in a cold wet climate. But building with plastic will at least ensure it doesn’t end up back in the ocean.”
Read more on the Transition Town Lewes website here.