A few years back, I wrote a concept explaining how to solve the plastics waste issue, called PlasticsToBio at AFRY. There are multiple issues we need to take into consideration when looking at plastics. Plastics play an extremely important role in the modern society as enablers for hygiene in packaging and protecting food during storage and transport. However, many plastics are used in such ways that consumers do not respect their full value. This results in littering and plastic pollution in the ocean and rivers.
To solve the issue at large, we need to:
- Reduce the amount of plastic used,
- Redesign where and why plastic is used,
- Reuse already produced plastic items,
- Recycle the plastic as efficiently as possible
- Make all the plastics renewable.
How this will be done?
We need to take an elevated look to tackle the issue. What it takes to solve the plastics waste issue, is to develop three things.
Firstly, collection of plastics, whether packaging or items needs to be well-organized in such a manner, that plastics only get collected once before reuse or recycling. Currently, waste can get collected first from homes after use and again after leakage during transportation, from rivers, oceans etc.
Secondly, recycling needs to be designed to retain as much of the value of the plastic as possible – thus if reuse is possible, then reuse, but if not, then use the least possible amount of energy and material to recycle the plastic.
Thirdly, we should focus on the feedstock used to produce the plastics and turn as much as possible into bio-based origin.
There are four types of feedstocks that are feasible for bio-based plastic production, lignocellulosics (incl cellulose and lignin), natural oils (incl algae oil, vegetable oils), sugars and starches, and finally organic waste and other biomass from waste and residue origins. Woodly is made out of cellulose.
With well-organized collection and recycling, the amount of bio-based feedstock to decouple plastics is reduced to a half with every cycle and thus can be sourced sustainably.
Woodly fits AFRY’s PlasticsToBio concept very well as it is made from wood-based raw materials, it can be easily sorted with near-infrared and it is very easily recyclable mechanically. Recycling tests have concluded that Woodly can be recycled 5 times without any deterioration in mechanical or physical properties.
About the Author: Tomi Nyman, the CCO of Woodly has more than 20 years experience in bioplastic business and bioplastic technology. He has set a personal target to himself to cut emissions by 1 Gt.