April 22, 2021, marked over fifty years since the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970. Each person in every country wants to make a difference in the conservation of our planet. Among one of the paramount focuses of the safeguarding of our environment is the recycling of garbage. Certain types of materials can be reused, and it is of utmost importance for the citizens of this great earth to try their best to do so. Plastics are one of main products that are at the forefront of recycling. Most of us will try our best to separate our garbage so that plastic bags, containers, and other plastic items can be reprocessed.
Would you believe it if I were to inform you that as of 2015, out of all the plastic products produced in the United States, only 9% were successfully recycled? How could that be possible? When you place your empty plastic ketchup bottle or barbeque sauce container into your recycling bin at the curb it will most likely end up filling up a landfill rather than being reconditioned to be used again. This is because there is a secret that is now becoming well known and that is that if the plastic container is dirty, it cannot be recycled. I don’t mean to shock you or maybe you know about this already, but I did not. I am not really looking positively to visiting parks that are built on top of disposed plastic bags. How can we possibly change this scenario?
We have learned about the big industry in China that accepted most of the world’s plastic waste. They are now becoming very selective and have begun to accept only “clean” plastic. Once China became selective starting in 2017, countries all over the world had nowhere to send their plastic. Even countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, will now only accept intricately cleaned plastic.
For a community to thoroughly clean their plastic for it to be accepted by these countries is not economically feasible. The abundance of this plastic waste is becoming a real environmental danger since these plastics will either end up buried in landfills or burned. In fact, in some neighborhoods across the world, recycling bins have been removed due to the lack of disposal venues.
There are many different innovations in countries around the world in an attempt to solve this terrible plastic recycling problem. With the right funding there are many smart and creative people who are willing and able to find ways to reuse dirty plastic or invent other materials to take its place. We will first elaborate on two leading-edge companies in Israel that are dynamically transforming the problems of recycling. We will also touch on two other more personal innovations, plastic free gum, and an edible water bottle.
Alkemy Environmental Industrial Plastic Sheeting
The dictionary defines the word alchemy as an inventive field prior to chemistry where innovators tried to transform matter. Their main goal was transforming regular metal into gold which they never succeeded in doing. Today we have a visionary company called Alkemy Environmental based in Beit She’an Israel, which is turning the plastic that other countries could not handle because it was too dirty, into plastic sheeting for construction purposes. Yes, this transformative young company headed by Noah Hershcoviz is doing just that and succeeding by leaps and bounds. Highway tunnels, military installations and stadiums are some of the projects that this futuristic company is tackling. The Alkemy plastic sheeting is used for sealing that is completely waterproof and root proof.
Right now, there are three types of plastic sheeting that this company is producing.
1) Armadillo - easily cuts and perfect for cushioning floors.
2) Rhino - for use under roads to prevent the swelling of the soil under the roads causing cracking and bumps.
3) Cricket - sheeting used for root barriers in planting and in construction of waterways.
Alkemy uses a unique heating system which heats up the plastic without burning it to stabilize the texture, forming sealing sheets ready for construction use. There is no requirement to ship the raw plastic from one plant to another, one for sorting, another for cleaning and a third for making the end product. All of the sorting and cleaning is done in one factory by their unique system, using standard industrial machines.
Will your baby’s bottle or your coleslaw container be made with Alkemy recycled and cleaned plastic?
Have no fear it will not. Since these products must be manufactured with plastics of 100% purity and Alkemy cannot make such a claim yet. However, Alkemy is becoming a financially viable company quite quickly. When plastic waste is sent to a landfill there is a processing tax on the disposal called a “tipping fee”. If a company sends this same waste to Alkemy, not only is the fee waived but it will share in the profits from the new sheeting produced.
The EU has a target of 60% of plastic to be recycled by 2025 and banning plastics from landfills. Alkemy is both good for the planet and good for business. The potential market for this type of production is high. According to Allied Market Research plastic sheeting for construction will climb to $105 billion by 2025. For investors Alkemy deserves some serious attention.
Can Packaging Be Made with Something Other Than Plastic?
Yes, according to Joseph Siani and Lior Itai of the new startup company called W-Cycle. Bagasse or sugarcane pulp is the secret ingredient in their revolutionary packing material. This pulp is the by-product or waste left over when sugar is processed from sugarcane. According to Itai, there are tons of this waste just sitting there and not being used. This is the raw material that his company is using to make the new material. W-Cycle’s components can be frozen to minus -40 °C and be reheated up to 250 °C. The product named, SupraPulp is 100% natural as a banana leaf and emits absolutely no poisons if thrown away and combusted.
W-Cycle is now entering a very exciting market which includes airline food manufacturers and Neto, a major Israeli food company. Other bonuses of this sugar cane product are that it is actually stronger and cheaper than plastic. SupraPulp packaging can be heated in any method the consumer would like, be it, microwave, convection or regular oven or steam cooker. It can also be frozen as well. Oily foods or water will not be absorbed or leaked from these containers.
Looking to the future, W-Cycle is confident that their product will be able to replace present milk cartons and snack food packaging. SupraPulp will extend the shelf life of food products by preventing light, moisture, and oxygen from entering them. Most importantly, this material is much easier to recycle than the standard food containers of today whether aluminum or plastic.
Plastic Free Gum
Before World War ll, chewing gum was made from rubber, after that the manufacturers switched to plastic. Either way, the body can digest neither rubber or plastic and gum becomes a hazard to the environment besides the digestive system. Gum does not break down, so you carry it with you until it exits the body. There are several companies around manufacturing plastic-free gum, True Gum, Simply Gum and Chewsy are some examples of gum made from natural biodegradable substances.
Simply Gum has a base that is made of tree sap and has no artificial ingredients. The same holds true for True Gum which is also made from sap called the sapodilla tree. True Gum’s packaging is consistently plastic free as well.
Edible Water Bottles
There is one item that I don’t think will ever be able to be eliminated from the environment and that is our personal water bottles. When I was growing up, we hardly drank water, instead milk was a requirement before leaving the breakfast table. Soda, in glass bottles, was also a staple at meals with the soda bottles returned to the soda man to be sterilized and reused. We, therefore, did not have the problem of recycling soda cans or plastic water bottles. Today, you rarely see a child or an adult without their trusty water bottle in their hand, bike or carry on. That’s just how it is today. Who would drink out of a water fountain today?
A European based company, called Ooho Water can have the answer to the very serious problem of plastic water bottle disposal. About 86% of plastic water bottles in the United States turn into trash or landfill. The Ooho water vessel is made of a double membrane made of algae and calcium chloride. This substance is not only biodegradable but also edible. In order to drink the water, you must break the sphere and sip the water inside.
The Ooho bottle contains water in a double membrane called, “spherification”. This is the same technique that changes gelatin into capsules so that they look like fish eggs. Best of all the cost of this bottle production is only two cents!
It is so enlightening and uplifting to see how many types of products can be made without hurting the environment. Earth Day reminds us how we must strive and never give up in keeping our minds sharp and attuned to new inventions. There is no limit, as we can see just from these four breakthroughs that we introduced in this article. We hope we have given you hope that our planet can be saved from the disposal of plastic bags in a haphazard way. Even if we still must use garbage bags for waste, if the waste is biodegradable that will be a big help. With companies, such as Alkemy, W-Cycle, TrueGum and Ooho, leading the way, many new products are following very quickly, and we have only touched on a few. Plastic waste disposal has for a long time seemed like an insurmountable problem, however, there is definitely hope for a better tomorrow.