More thoughts from Catherine, recycling expert and information specialist:
Plastic bottles and containers are a perpetual scourge in the park. A lot of people are thinking about this problem, here and elsewhere.
Styrofoam and recycling
Some time ago, in an earlier blog post, I referred to efforts to ban the use of Styrofoam in various places. An interesting instance of this was the movement for a ban in New York City, which was brought forward by the Mayor, Mr Bill de Blasio. On July 1, 2015, the city banned disposable Styrofoam single-serve containers. The Dart Container Corp and Restaurant Action Alliance NYC sued the city for imposing the ban, arguing that the substance is recyclable, and the Manhattan Supreme Court has overturned it.
Naturally, the Mayor sought to reverse the reversal. However, he seems to have lost this fight. The rationale for the ban rested on the fact that there was no economically viable long-term means of recycling the containers. In response to this, the Dart Corporation offered the city a five-year plan to recycle all the foam cups and trays, etc., and the Appeal Court has denied the Mayor’s challenge. The case for recycling is being promoted at http://newyork.gofoam.org/
The respective arguments are difficult to evaluate without technical knowledge, but it does seem to be true that styrofoam can be recycled, or “downcycled” into packaging materials. However, this is an imperfect process; the plastic materials have to be collected and the process is complex and costs money. The “downcycled” items can then pop up somewhere else. Furthermore, if Styrofoam containers are being used in restaurants, takeaways, etc., the task and expense of collecting them and delivering them to a recycling plant, will fall on the public purse. Naturally the plastics industry rather like this; they would, wouldn’t they?
Given the menace that Styrofoam “clam shells” are in our small park, one can only wonder at the tons of it which must be found on the streets of this labyrinth of a city. And given the dangerous nature of Styrofoam, perhaps the question is not, how can we deal with it, but why on earth do we tolerate it in the first place? Let us see if the reversal can itself be reversed. Stick to your guns, Bill. You are mayor of Noo Yawk.
Thanks to aficionados who have alerted me to an interesting new publication, Plastic Water The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water, by Gay Hawkins et al. This discusses the creation and emergence of a mass market for bottled water, and the invention of the PET bottle. It opens with a challenging comment from Lewis Black, comedian: “We care about our health so much that in the last twenty-five years we destroyed water”……. This performance can be found on Youtube.
Biodegradable bottles and edible cutlery
The final solution to the plastic bottle problem might be on the horizon, if not imminent. An Icelandic product designer has been experimenting with the creation of “bottles” from powdered agar. When the powder is added to water, it forms into a jelly-like material, which can be shaped into a bottle-like mould. This will hold water, and decompose when drained. More information here.
A researcher in Hyderabad has created some edible cutlery. Since 2011, Bakeys has manufactured over 1.5 million edible spoons made from rice, wheat, and millet in eight different flavors: sugar, ginger-cinnamon, ginger-garlic, celery, black pepper, cumin, mint-ginger, and carrot-beetroot. http://www.bakeys.com/
The World Economic Forum predicts that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. So a bottle and spoon which is edible would be a good thing.
A Dutch entrepreneur has designed a machine for recycling plastic, which is low cost and can be created virtually anywhere. It includes a plastic shredder, extruder, injection moulder and rotation moulder; This project is open-source and its creator hopes it will be used, and adapted and enhanced, all over the world; local craftsmen and women can modify the process in the light of their individual circumstances . The mechanism has been used, so far, to create litter bins, lamps and toys. Other ideas are requested: http://preciousplastic.com/
There are many innovative ideas on reusing plastic bottles, inter alia, at Veolia; their Twitter feed is at http://bit.ly/1SLipJ7
There is an entire subreddit on the removal of plastic from newly bought goods. https://www.reddit.com/r/thatpeelingfeeling