This was the scene on Newhaven beach last week. Sadly, this is the scene on most beaches most of the time, in most of the world, these days and if yours is cleaner then a quick call to your council will inform you how much money it’s costing you to keep it that way.
For much of the C20th plastic use rocketed at a velocity only matched by the volume of the environmental campaigners calling for us to reduce our dependence on it. Nevertheless plastic use continues to rise because plastics are just so wonderfully convenient – not the just the scapegoated shopping bag but the cartons for most of your food, coat hangers, cutlery, plumbing, wiring, and so much more that we never see and don’t think about. Without plastic we’d be living in 1880 and whilst that sounds fabulously fun for a visit I doubt many of us would be really that happy to see the Tardis fade away abandoning us to a world with no disposable medical equipment, to give just one example. Of course we can exercise some common sense and moderation and there will always be people who carry a canvas bag everywhere and choose to walk to the farmers market or grow their own tomatoes but with 7 billion people on the planet this just isn’t an option for everyone so, perhaps, instead of constantly trying to wish back the tide, a new approach is called for?
The weird thing, and the source of the problem, in my opinion, is that polymers are amongst the most durable substances we’ve ever created yet most of us use them for one-off disposable purposes and, up til now, the one we maybe all encounter most often in our daily lives – polyethylene terephthalate, PET to its friends and enemies alike, has stubbornly resisted all attempts to recycle it efficiently. “Hold up a sec”, I hear you cry, “what about all those trips to the recycling centre and all those council collections?”. Well, up until now, PET, that’s milk bottles, coke bottles and the like to name just one use of this very versatile polymer, has only been fully recyclable into fibre and thence into fleece or carpet, which is hugely useful in itself but consumes only a fraction of the available refuse material, and produces a product which is then not recyclable itself. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to use it for something else? Herein lies the problem; in order to recycle it into more good quality PET objects, you have to add a high percentage of virgin material and a whole pile of nasty chemicals which makes a mockery of the process and a nightmare for any PR person attempting to push this as a green product or environmental solution. It’s a bit like trying to put out a house fire with a tea-cup full of mixed water and gasoline.
So, what’s new then?
Well, this is new – Invicta Plastics has come up with rPETable® – a process to recycle 100% of a PET object into more 100% recyclable PET items, in fact anything which can be injection moulded. It can produce high quality to use for drinking glasses and food packaging, and what’s more – it looks fantastic. At the moment it’s milk bottles into drinking glasses and Coke bottles into Coke glasses (huge green kudos for Coca Cola and an easy sell for their marketing team methinks!), and only PET at present though other polymers are (ahem) in the pipeline, but the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and it may just herald the beginning of the end of the great swirling gyres of plastic in the oceans, in the wildlife, on the beaches and strangling our beautiful planet.
If you have a product that you think would benefit from this process, get in contact on the links below, and if you know a company that should be in the know – please share, there’s room here for everyone to make a living and at the same help start to heal our lovely home.
contacts and technical jargon can all be found here:
(disclaimer: I do not work for, nor am I paid by Invicta Group, rPETable® http://rpetable.comor any allied persons or companies. I am a personal friend of several directors but I post my own opinions, no-one else’s)