The issue of plastic waste has grown too large to ignore. As of 2013, 40 percent of the world's oceans surfaces were covered with floating plastic garbage of some sort, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Instead of burying their heads in the sand, companies, nonprofits and governments are beginning to not only address the issue but also seize the benefits from doing so. An international forum next month will bring these stakeholders together and highlight solution-driven thinking about plastic waste, while promoting the material's vast, untapped opportunity.
The Ocean Recovery Alliance is hosting its second annual Plasticity Forum on June 6 in Hong Kong to accelerate uptake of the sustainable plastics concept. Conventional plastic and bioplastics manufacturers, sustainable packaging and green branding gurus, waste management practitioners, NGOs, think tanks and government agencies will share at the event progressive thinking on new ways to harness plastic, both pre- and post-consumption.
Discussions will focus on design, packaging, materials, innovations, re-use and waste reduction.
The Plasticity Forum follows the success of its inaugural event at last year's Rio +20 Earth Summit, which showcased a cradle-to-grave array of sustainable solutions and plastic alternatives. In addition to the Ocean Recovery Alliance, organizers included Republic of Everyone and Applied Brilliance. The forum attracted more than 130 industry delegates, government leaders, educators and innovators from more than 15 countries.
"There are many sustainable ways of dealing with the use and re-use of (plastic) compared with the prevalent one-way use today," MBA Polymers founder Mike Biddle stressed after the 2012 event.
Addressing the end-of-life waste issue at the conference, MBA Polymers demonstrated how its new sorting technologies recover and return virtually any type of plastic to a pure feedstock stream. This creates significant value for companies seeking to capture post-consumer waste from their products.
A compelling plastic alternative showcased at the forum was Ecovative's fungus-based home-compostable composite materials, designed to replace petroleum-based Styrofoam. Ecovative demonstrated how mushrooms and fungus are literally "grown" into products by using molds that the spores grow into.
"The brands that will win are the ones that admit the communities they serve have a problem with plastic waste; that take the lead in making improvements; and are part of that solution," says Doug Woodring, event organizer and co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance.
Leading the pack
By harnessing plastic waste streams, several brand leaders already have enjoyed substantial savings, while others are reaping lucrative rewards.
Plastic waste image by Tyler Olson via Shutterstock.
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