Plastic pollution has become a critical environmental issue, affecting the ecosystem and posing a threat to human health. With the increasing awareness of the severity of the situation, researchers and innovators have been working tirelessly to develop new technologies that can tackle this problem. The question that arises is, has any new invention successfully solved the plastic pollution crisis? In this article, we will explore some of the latest technologies and innovations that are fighting plastic pollution, and discuss whether they have solved the crisis.
The Plastic Pollution Crisis
The plastic crisis has become one of the greatest challenges facing the planet, with at least 14 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year . This pollution is causing tragic consequences for sea life, from choking turtles to poisoning whales. The situation has become so severe that it is also posing a threat to human health. Plastic pollution is a public health issue, and it is not just the plastic we are ingesting, but also the chemicals that are added to it . The situation demands immediate action, and innovators and researchers are coming up with groundbreaking solutions to tackle this crisis.
The Innovations Fighting Plastic Pollution
The Plastic-Eating Enzyme
One of the most important scientific solutions to plastic pollution that has emerged is the plastic-eating enzyme. In 2016, a scientist in Japan discovered a plastic-eating enzyme capable of breaking down polyethene terephthalate (PET), the most commonly used type of plastic . This discovery has opened up new possibilities for reducing plastic waste and could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis.
Smart New Technologies for Waste Recycling
A key principle in fighting plastic pollution is preventing untreated wastewater, which is often packed with plastics and microplastics, from entering the environment in the first place. A study conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) details financially sustainable waste recycling that is socially and legally acceptable and environmentally friendly . This is an essential step towards fighting plastic pollution.
Using Nanotechnology for Smart Packaging
Nanotechnology has emerged as a powerful tool in fighting plastic pollution. Using nanotechnology for smart packaging is one such innovation that has the potential to reduce plastic waste. This technology involves creating packaging materials that can biodegrade within a short period . By making packaging smarter and more environmentally friendly, we can tackle the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future.
Genetic Engineering of Natural Products
Another innovation in fighting plastic pollution is the genetic engineering of natural products. This technology involves altering the genetic makeup of plants and bacteria to produce materials that can replace plastic. For example, a company called Mango Materials is using bacteria to produce biodegradable plastic from methane gas . This technology could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future.
Making Lightweight Aluminium and Steel
Making lightweight aluminium and steel is another innovation that can help reduce plastic pollution. Lightweight materials can be used to replace plastic in many applications, such as packaging and automotive components. This would reduce the amount of plastic waste generated and contribute to a more sustainable future .
Chemical recycling is a technology that can convert plastic waste back into its original building blocks, enabling it to be reused and recycled. This innovation has the potential to reduce plastic waste and contribute to a more sustainable future .
Using Bio-Based Biodegradable Polymers
Using bio-based biodegradable polymers is an innovative solution to plastic pollution. These polymers are derived from natural materials and can biodegrade quickly, reducing the amount of plastic waste generated. This technology could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future .
Using Nano-Cellulose for Biodegradation
Another innovative solution to plastic pollution is using nano-cellulose for biodegradation. Nano-cellulose is a natural material that can be used to create biodegradable products that can replace plastic. This technology could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future .
Using Catalysis to Biodegrade PET Plastic
Using catalysis to biodegrade PET plastic is another innovative solution to plastic pollution. This technology involves using a catalyst to break down PET plastic into its building blocks, enabling it to be recycled and reused. This innovation could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future .
Recyclable Plastic Packaging
Recyclable plastic packaging is an innovation that can help reduce plastic waste. This technology involves creating packaging materials that can be recycled easily, reducing the amount of plastic waste generated. This innovation could potentially solve the plastic pollution crisis and create a sustainable future .
The Ocean Cleanup Project
The Ocean Cleanup project is an ambitious initiative that aims to remove plastic waste from the oceans. The project consists of a large 600 meter-long (2,000 ft) free-floating boom that passively collects plastic that enters it by currents . While the project aims to collect large items, its first successful attempt in October 2019 captured microplastics as small as 1mm across, and the team reported that they are continually improving the technology . The Ocean Cleanup project is an innovative solution to the plastic pollution crisis and could potentially create a sustainable future.
I PPO: A New Type of Plastic
A new type of plastic called isotactic polypropylene oxide (i PPO) has been developed by Cornell University. I PPO is similar to nylon-6,6 in sturdiness and its ability to maintain stability under adverse conditions. For this reason, nylon-6,6 is used in fishing nets and ropes . The development of I PPO offers an alternative to conventional plastics and could potentially reduce plastic waste.
Have These Innovations Solved the Plastic Pollution Crisis?
While the innovations mentioned above are promising, none of them has entirely solved the plastic pollution crisis. The plastic pollution crisis is a complex problem that requires a multifaceted solution. Although new technologies and innovations are making progress towards reducing plastic waste, they are still in the development phase and have yet to be implemented on a large scale.
The plastic pollution crisis is a pressing issue that affects the environment and human health. Innovators and researchers are continuously working to develop new technologies and innovations that can reduce plastic waste and create a sustainable future. While the innovations discussed in this article are promising, none of them has entirely solved the plastic pollution crisis. We must continue to work towards implementing these technologies on a large scale and develop innovations to tackle the problem effectively.