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18 Jul, 2017 / BY Russell Poppe

How can we use plastics responsibly?

JJS Manufacturing Insights Who knew you can make plastic from castor beans? Well not me, for one. Admittedly, chemistry has never been my strong point but whilst looking at some new materials recently I was surprised and rather delighted to find durable plastics being made from renewable resources. Plastics are amazing materials, and we’d be hard pressed to imagine a world without them now, but it has been estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the sea each year. Some of this is eaten by fish, and some of them are eaten by us. Not a pleasant thought at all. So what can be done about it?

Dame Ellen MacArthur, writing for Huffington Post, explains the situation beautifully and takes it a step – no, a leap - further in describing the New Plastics Economy. This is proposed as part of the wider ‘circular economy’ concept that is relevant to all designers, manufacturers, consumers …. well, everyone really. Especially if you eat fish. The vision aims to encourage materials science and product design innovation in ways that will provide alternatives to fossil-based plastics (like the beans), improve the economics of recycling, and reduce the escape of plastics into the environment.

When you sail non-stop around the world, you manage everything that you have onboard. From the energy in the batteries to the food and water, everything is carefully monitored. The boat is your own little finite world. And when you’re racing through the Southern Ocean, you are two and half thousand miles away from the nearest town, in iceberg territory. If vital help needs to get to you, it’ll take five days for a ship to pick you up and then five days to steam you back to the next hospital. No experience will ever connect you more to the notion of what finite really means, because what you have on the boat really is all you have.

Sami Sarkis via Getty Images

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dame-ellen-macarthur/new-plastics-economy_b_17486826.html

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