Can Capitalism and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand?
Facts on Plastic Waste
Plastic pollution is a major problem in the world affecting wildlife, habits and even humans. Millions of animals are harmed and killed every year, both in the sea and on land; fish, dolphins, turtles, whales, seals, birds, cattle, elephants, tigers and many more. Some of the animals get trapped and others eat the waste, killing them.
The most pertinent issue is the effect it has on our health. Plastic waste not only affects animals but also human beings through the food chain process. If smaller animals ingest plastic or micro-plastics (less than five millimetres in length), then bigger animals will also get contaminated and so on until it reaches human beings. Not only, but micro plastics also manage to get through the filtration process affecting both the ocean and the water that we drink every day. In that sense, we are ingesting the plastic that we’ve used and thrown away without knowing it.
But what affects does it have on our health?
Toxins that come from plastic are directly linked to birth defects, childhood development problems, immune system issues and cancer. To think that on average we’re ingesting the equivalent of a credit card worth of plastic every week – that’s horrifying.
National Geographic stated a few facts regarding plastic pollution:
- “Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.
- Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.
- Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.
- Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible, and durable. But many of these additives can extend the life of products if they become litter, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.” (National Geographic, 2019).
These numbers are shocking.
Anything is Possible
Sometimes we forget what’s going on outside of our spectrum and daily life. However, even if we don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We can’t avoid the consequences of our actions because it’s catching up with us. That’s why we have to act; find new ways to reduce waste and better ways to recycle products.
We all try to do our best in our small way by not buying plastic bottles and buying groceries at markets and zero waste shops. But our society still hasn’t implemented zero-waste consumerism. Supermarkets are still selling groceries in plastic bags/boxes and freshwater is mostly available by purchasing plastic bottles.
It would be amazing if tomorrow we woke up knowing a new approach has been implemented throughout the world, but we don’t see it happening anytime soon.
We can’t stand still and wait for the government to change all this, to implement a zero-waste approach in every single aspect of daily life. What we can do in the meantime is to find new sustainable ways of using plastic waste and figure out how we can bring capitalism and sustainability together in a way that can serve us rather than damage us.
We can use capitalism as a force for good.
Think about everything you own; your flat, your sofa, your bag, your bedsheets, your cutlery, your storage boxes – could all those be made out of recycled waste? Why not, right? Everything is possible in this day and age.
Precious Plastic is a zero-waste initiative that sees people as the key ingredient to fix plastic pollution. Their objective is to retrieve plastic products, transform them into valuable raw materials and using them to create objects and furniture.
The amazing thing about this programme is that anyone can join and help. You can either start a precious plastic space or give support whenever you can. Five different entrepreneurial jobs exist depending on your skills or type of engagement you want to have.
- Member – Being a member means that you’re the one fuelling the recycling network by collecting plastic, spreading the word and supporting in other different ways.
- Collection – Your job is to create a collection point where individuals, organizations and businesses can leave their plastic waste to then be sent to a local shredder workspace.
- Recycling process – This is where the magic happens, transforming waste into raw materials and products. Within this branch, there are five different workspaces: shredder, extrusion, sheet press, injection and mix.
- Machine shop – These shops create parts and machines that are then used in the recycling network.
- Community point – Finally, this branch is in charge of spreading the word, educating and involving more people in the existing recycling community.
Through Precious Plastic, anyone can join and anyone can make a difference. Check out their website for more information https://preciousplastic.com/index.html
Founded by Michael Reynolds, Earthship is an eco-construction and self-sufficient living company based in the US and working all across the world. This company focuses on several different tasks:
- Builds, sells and rents autonomous houses.
- Teaches people how to build them through its academy.
- Organizes sustainable development and poverty relief projects.
- Teaches individuals about the importance of sustainability at their visitor centre.
The eco-building focuses on bringing together the 6 human needs for harmonious life on Earth; these include food, energy, clean water, shelter, garbage management and sewage treatment.
The most amazing thing of this project is that not only it is 100% circular with a zero-waste approach, but also 100% sustainable as the construction is made entirely with recycled materials such as tires and plastic bottles.
Earthship has built eco-houses all around the world including a four-unit eco-hotel in Uruguay, built the first self-sufficient and sustainable public school in Argentina and built a new model of Earthship in Japan. To learn more about their amazing job all around the world, Earthship has created a grand central map showing their incredible work à https://maphub.net/EarthshipBiotecture/map
There’s also an Earthship at Stanmer Park in Brighton – one of the only two Earthships located in the UK! The Low Carbon Trust provides meetings, information and tours of the eco-building to educate people on sustainable living and low carbon technologies. To attend a tour please check out this website – http://www.lowcarbon.co.uk/tours
Material of the Future
In 2018, London design fair focused on the problem of plastic pollution and thus used it as the material of the year. With this in mind, the design world managed to creatively produce astonishing pieces of work from recycling and moulding plastic in their unique way.
One of the companies showcasing their work was Week & Merl. Based in Brighton & Hove, this company uses LPDE, a material that can be re-melted endlessly, to create plates, coasters, tables, lamps and more. The unique aspect of this design company is that they source all the materials locally, so this waste doesn’t have to be shipped abroad for recycling.
Today many companies and brands around the world have started using plastic waste as the material of their products.
Van de Sant is a circular innovation company that produces furniture by recycling plastic waste. Their desire to clean up the ocean and stop deforestation has led them to produce sustainable and circular stylish sofas, armchairs and lamps – https://www.vandesant.com/
“Every furniture piece contains approx 25 kg of plastic waste, reduce 50 kg CO2 emissions, saves 20 kg of wood and 8000-litre water. We address Sustainable Development Goals 12, 14 and 15.” (Van de Sant, 2020)
This is truly amazing!
There are so many companies out there, both local and global, that are changing and experimenting with plastic waste to create material goods without harming the planet. A few of these are:
– TDP produces outdoor furniture from recycled plastic waste.
– Adidas partnered with Parley to produce sustainable sneakers using recycled plastic bottles.
– Everlane ReNew collection has produced jackets and sweaters from recycled plastic bottles. They are planning to change all their materials to sustainable ones by the year 2021.
We hope that soon every existing company will take this recycling process on board as it is a very efficient way of creating a sustainable capitalist world.
If we put our mind to it, we can make the world a better place to live. A world where animals don’t die of plastic waste and habitats don’t get polluted and destroyed.
We can live in a world where humans live in perfect harmony with nature, without exploiting and damaging our home; everything is possible if we give it a proper try.
But first, we have to accept responsibility for our actions and stop denying what we are doing to ourselves and the environment. Only then we will be ready for change and do whatever we can to stop this disease.
Let’s do this!