Some quick facts to give some additional perspective:
- “32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012, representing 12.7 percent of total MSW.”
- “In 2012, the United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging, about 11 million tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups.”
- “It took approximately 17 million barrels of oil equivalent to produce plastic for bottled water consumed by Americans in 2006—enough energy to fuel more than 1 million American cars and light trucks for a year.” Now, that was 2006 and consumption has been compounding year over year so you can only imagine that the number of barrels used today is much greater.
- “Each bottle requires 3 liters of fresh water to make 1 plastic water bottle.” It’s estimated that 25% of bottled water is tap water put in a bottle and sold to you. Lastly, most tap is more regulated and cleaner. Bottled water is managed by the FDA and tap is regulated by the EPA who have stricter guidelines. Since the EPA identified the issues with the bottled water safety guidelines they have been improved, however.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or garbage vortex, is one of 5 large gyres in our oceans. The Pacific Garbage Patch is said to be twice the size of Texas.
According to Phys.org, “The Wyss Institute team, led by Postdoctoral Fellow Javier Fernandez, Ph.D., and Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., developed a new way to process the material so that it can be used to fabricate large, 3D objects with complex shapes using traditional casting or injection molding manufacturing techniques. What’s more, their chitosan bioplastic breaks down when returned to the environment within about two weeks, and it releases rich nutrients that efficiently support plant growth.”“There is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced,” Wyss Director Donald E. Ingber said in March. “Our scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bioplastic that could potentially be used instead of conventional plastics for numerous industrial applications.”
The potential here is very exciting as we are in extreme need of a solution today. This option is an environmentally safe alternative to synthetic plastic and could be a substitute for many mass produced goods such as trash bags, packaging, and diapers.
As mentioned earlier in the article, once disposed of this new plastic breaks down in just weeks as compared to the synthetic plastic (polyethylene) which takes more than a thousand years if ever. Actually, the researchers at Harvard grew black-eyes pea plant in soil enriched with its chitosan bioplastic. It encourages plant growth! This is like the natural cycle of nature, developments that naturally return to earth in a useful manner.
We can all help play our own part by becoming more aware of our plastic use.
Shocking review - Studying How Plastic Pollution Enters Ocean Food Supply