SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES TO PLASTIC

7 Unique Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic

As a result of the growing plastic pollution problem, sustainable alternatives to plastic are being researched and experimented with all the time. People have been trying to find ways to help rethink production processes for plastic. It turns out that many changes could have been implemented decades ago, but it is time to implement these changes now and more effectively by formulating policies, regulations, contracts, and promoting eco-friendly alternatives.

More than eighteen trillion pounds of plastic have been produced to date, and eighteen billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year. As more research on the impact of using so much plastic comes to light, consumers and manufacturers are left scrambling for Alternatives to Plastic.

Can plastic be eco-friendly?

Until a plastic is invented that is made from something other than petroleum and is non-toxic, biodegradable and fully recyclable, plastic will never be considered eco-friendly.

But while plastic isn’t eco friendly, the way we manufacture, recycle and utilize it can definitely be improved. And with plastic pollution being such a massive global issue, there is a lot of effort going in to making plastic as eco friendly as possible.

7 Sustainable Alternatives to Plastics

Plastic is one of the most common single-use resources in the world. Every year, just in the united states alone 6.3 billion pounds of plastic is throw away, this has devastating effects to the earth’s surface. Below are seven uncommon sustainable alternatives to plastic to help reduce the reliance on plastic consumption.

1. Olive pits

Olive seeds can be turned into environmentally friendly bioplastics. This chance discovery has since sprouted up as the Biolive start-up, a group that converts the discarded pits from olive oil manufacturers into bioplastic. Biolive began transforming the cellulosic agent sourced from olive pits, which are discarded during the olive oil production process, into biodegradable plastic products. These leave a much smaller carbon footprint and offer a sustainable substitute for plastic packaging.

While it takes 450 years for typical plastics to decompose, the olive-based plastic decomposes within a year, by using it on the earth like fertilizer. If you replaced 2 pounds of traditional plastic with the same amount of Biolive’s bio-plastic, you could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 13 pounds (6 kilograms).

2. Liquid wood plastic alternative (Arboblend or Arboform)

Liquid wood a German invention also known as Arboform, is a material with great promise of being a natural alternative to plastic. It is made by combining lignin, which is a leftover element of regular wood with natural resins, flax and fiber. Just like wood, it can be broken down quickly and organically into eco-safe by products. Most of the ingredients used in its production are created as a simple side-effect of the existing pulp industry.

liquid wood can be moulded into any object form which is normally made using non-biodegradable petroleum products. Almost anything you can imagine from simple toys to complex gadgets, disposable cups to long-lasting automobile parts, custom-cast furniture to heavy-duty helmets – think of anything made of plastic or wood, and you will start to get the picture.

3. Grape waste plastic alternatives (pomace)

grape waste pomance

Researchers from a University in France have been working on a way to use the pomace left behind during wine production to make more durable plastics. In wine making, some 25 per cent of the grapes is left over composed of grape pomace (leftover grape skins, stems, and seeds), and lees. Aside from making alternatives to single-use plastic, grape skins are also great in making papers.

They can basically package any food or beverage with a skin like a grape skin that’s fully edible. Aside from food, grape skins can also be converted as an ingredient to fertilizers, meat preservers, and alternative fuels. On the other hand, converting organic waste or discards such as grape skin into greener plastics or papers can also make significant changes towards a better future.

4. Fish Waste and Algae

MarinaTex is biodegradable bioplastic made from red algae and waste products. The bioplastic which won a James Dyson Award in 2019 can be used as alternatives to the single-use plastics such as sandwich packets. This type of plastic could reduce or significantly limit the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste that we usually see today. It was found that fish skins and scales had promising signs as a good plastic alternative due to their flexibility and strength-enabling proteins. This bio-material is fully biodegradable and compostable, which makes it a great eco friendly plastic alternative.

5. Plant sugars as alternatives to plastic

Amsterdam-based company Avantium has created a plants-to-plastics technology that converts plant-based sugars into a new biodegradable packaging material. It can be used as a textile or a film and has the potential to replace the packaging of soft drinks, water, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices. Avantium, thinks its plant-based plastic bottles could act as a direct stand-in for plastic bottles and they would be a whole lot better for the environment, too.

The company says that its “plant plastic” is strong enough to hold the pressure of carbonated beverages as well, opening the door for use with soda and other carbonated drinks. The company has already collaborated with Carlsberg to make a 100% bio-base beer bottle.

6. Sunflowers

Similar to olive seeds, the husks of sunflowers seeds used to make oil is a waste product that can also be used in the production of bioplastics. Sunflowers are regularly farmed to make oil, seeds or produce bio-fuel. After the oil is pressed out, one of the parts can be used as animal feed, but the rest of the crop can go unused. Remaining is the stalk, the barks strong fiber and the flowers brown proteins. All this leftover waste can be used to produce bio-materials.

Typically, only the flower head is harvested in the late summer months, however, the plants stalk can also be used. A month after the flower head is harvested, the bark can be parted from the marrow. The bark fibers are then heated and pressed into hardboard, while the marrow is formed into an aggregate, that’s a natural substitute for polystyrene. And then to make these bio-materials more water resistant, they can be coated in sunflower varnish. Then the glue extracted from the seeds can be used to assemble the various materials.

7. Mushrooms

Fungal mycelium can be used as an alternative to make standard or even custom moulded packaging that is resilient and 100% biodegradable. This alternative can reduce the reliance on plastic and polystyrene. Mushroom Packaging uses hemp Hurds and mushroom mycelium, its created by letting the mycelium grow around clean agricultural waste, such as corn stalks or husks. Over a few days, the fungus fibers bind the waste together, forming a solid shape. It is then dried to prevent it from growing any further. The finished product is water-resistant and compostable within 30 days when added to soil.

Bioplastic life cycle

sustainable alternatives to plastic - Bioplastic life cycle

Bioplastics are a type of plastic made from renewable plant materials, such as corn starch or sugarcane. They are increasingly being used as an alternative to traditional, fossil fuel-based plastics, as they are biodegradable and have a lower carbon footprint. However, it is important to understand the entire life cycle of bioplastics in order to fully assess their environmental impact.

The production of bioplastics begins with the cultivation of the raw materials. This can involve the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and can have a significant impact on the environment if not managed properly. Additionally, the processing of the raw materials into plastic can also have an impact, as it typically involves the use of energy and chemicals.

Once the bioplastic is produced, it can be used in a variety of applications, such as packaging, disposable cutlery, and even clothing. However, it is important to note that bioplastics are not always compostable or biodegradable, and may require industrial composting facilities to break down properly. Even when properly composted, bioplastics can release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, during the process.

At the end of its useful life, a bioplastic will be either landfilled or recycled. If it is landfilled, it may not degrade for hundreds of years, just like traditional plastics. If it is recycled, it may be used to produce new products, but the quality of the recycled material is often lower than the original.

Bioplastics can be a useful alternative to traditional plastics, but their environmental impact depends on the entire life cycle, from cultivation and production to disposal. It is crucial to consider the entire life cycle when evaluating the environmental impact of a product, and to ensure that bioplastics are properly managed in order to minimize their impact on the environment.

Conclusion

Bioplastics seem to be a great alternative to plastic because they are biodegradable and compostable. But, with the increase in demand for bioplastics over the last decade, environmentalists say the lack of industrial compost sites means these Bioplastics will only end up over filling landfills and will do little to stop the amount of plastic entering our waterways and oceans.

A lot of money will have to be put into infrastructure to improve services like recycling and compost sites to truly see the full benefits of bioplastics.

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