The first global "plastic limit order" is here, and the market for tens of billions of alternatives is about to explode.
Recently, the United Nations Environment Assembly was held both online and offline in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, with over 2,000 representatives from nearly 200 member states participating. One of the most important topics of the meeting is to tackle the global problem of plastic pollution, and to discuss the development of the first global agreement to deal with the plastic crisis. Agence France-Presse reported that this is an environmental agreement that has "high expectations" since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.
At present, environmental protection has become the main theme of global development, and environmental protection policies at home and abroad are emerging one after another. On January 19, 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced the "Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution": "By the end of 2020, my country will take the lead in banning and restricting the production and sale and use.”
My country's Ministry of Ecology and Environment emphasized again on February 23 this year that the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will actively strengthen plastic pollution control based on its own responsibilities. The next step will be to implement the legal requirements for plastic pollution control, and promote the implementation of the "Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution" and the "14th Five-Year Plan" Action Plan for Plastic Pollution Control, and control plastic pollution in a precise, scientific and lawful manner. At the same time, further strengthen cooperation with the international community and actively contribute Chinese experience and Chinese wisdom to the international community.
1. Degradable plastics once again have the upper hand
Under the main theme of environmental protection, degradable plastics, as the key material to replace existing plastics, will undoubtedly become the direction of public speculation again.
Degradable plastic is actually an ideal alternative to solve white pollution. Biodegradation is the main variety of degradable plastics. Usually, the degradable plastics that everyone hears refer to biodegradable plastics, which have been paid attention to by all parties because they can fundamentally solve the problem of white pollution.
What is degradable plastic?
Degradable plastics refer to a class of plastics whose various properties can meet the requirements of use, remain unchanged during the shelf life, and can be degraded into environmentally harmless substances under natural conditions after use. Therefore, it is also called environmentally degradable plastic.
There are a variety of new plastics: photodegradable plastics, biodegradable plastics, light/oxidative/biodegradable plastics, carbon dioxide-based biodegradable plastics, thermoplastic starch resin degradable plastics.
2. Plastic pollution has become a focus issue
The President of the United Nations Environment Assembly and Norwegian Environment Minister Espen Bart Eide said in his speech that the world is facing the threat of three major environmental crises: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. The world is gradually recovering from the epidemic, but in the face of environmental problems, our generation has a long way to go.
According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2021, from 1950 to 2017, about 9.2 billion tons of plastics were produced globally, of which the recycling rate of plastics was less than 10%, and about 7 billion tons became plastic waste. It is estimated that by 2040, about 710 million tons of plastic waste will be discarded into the natural environment every year. The American "Science Advances" magazine warned that in 2050, there will be more than 13 billion tons of plastic waste on the earth, and the blue earth may become a "plastic planet".
At present, plastic pollution has become the focus of global environmental pollution after climate change, posing a great challenge to global sustainable development. Plastic pollution in the oceans and other environments has the characteristics of trans-regional transfer, and no country or region can be immune to it. All countries need to uphold the concept of a "community with a shared future for mankind" and take extensive and active actions to jointly deal with it. " Zhang Deyuan said.
3. Unheard plastic alternatives, which ones have you heard of?
Environmentally friendly and natural plastic substitutes such as paper products and bamboo products have attracted people's attention. So in addition to these, what new natural alternative materials are there?
1) Seaweed: The answer to the plastic crisis?
With the development of bioplastics, seaweed has become one of the best alternatives to traditional plastic packaging.
Since it's not grown based on land-sourced material, it doesn't provide any fodder for the usual carbon emissions controversy. In addition, seaweed does not require the use of fertilizers. It helps restore the health of its immediate marine ecosystem and is not only biodegradable but also compostable at home, meaning it does not need to be broken down by chemical reactions in industrial facilities.
Indonesian sustainable packaging startup Evoware has created custom red algae packaging that lasts up to two years and is edible. So far, 200 companies in the food, cosmetics and textile industries have been testing the product.
British start-up Notpla has also developed a range of algae-based food and beverage packaging, such as ketchup bags that reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 68%.
Soft packs for drinks and sauces, called Oohos, range in volume from 10 to 100ml. The parcels can also be eaten and disposed of in normal household waste, and degrade in the natural environment within 6 weeks.
2) Can coconut fiber make flower pots?
UK plant-based e-tailer foli8 has launched a range of biodegradable pots made from pure coconut fibre and natural latex.
Not only does this plant material-based pot help minimise the ecological footprint, it is equally beneficial from a horticultural perspective. Because coir fiber pots are known to promote strong root growth. This innovation also avoids the need for repotting, as old pots are easily inserted into larger pots, while reducing the risk of root damage.
Foli8 also provides corporate planting solutions for famous London landmarks such as The Savoy, as well as supplying some of the UK's top global workspaces.
3) Popcorn as packaging material
Using popcorn as a packaging material may sound like another old joke, but researchers at the University of Göttingen have recently developed such a plant-based eco-friendly material as an eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene or plastic. The university has now signed a licensing agreement with Nordgetreide for the commercial use of processes and products for the packaging industry.
Stefan Schult, managing director of Nordgetreide, said the plant-based packaging is a good sustainable alternative, made from inedible by-products from corn flakes production and can be composted after use without any residue.
"This new process is based on technologies developed by the plastics industry to produce a wide range of moulded parts," explains research team leader Professor Alireza Kharazipour. "This is especially important when considering packaging, as it ensures that the product is transported safely and minimizes waste. This is all achieved by using a material that is biodegradable even after the fact."
4) Starbucks launches "slag pipe"
As the world's largest chain coffee shop, Starbucks has always been ahead of many catering industries on the road to environmental protection. In the store, you can see disposable tableware made of degradable materials such as PLA and paper. In April this year, Starbucks officially launched PLA and coffee. The biodegradable straw made of slag is said to have a biodegradation rate of more than 90% within 4 months.
This kind of straw is resistant to stirring, not easy to collapse and stick to the mouth, and has a better consumption experience. Since April 22, more than 850 stores in Shanghai have begun to provide this "slag pipe", and it is planned to gradually cover stores nationwide within this year.
5) Coca-Cola one-piece paper bottle
This year, Coca-Cola also launched a paper bottle packaging. The bottle body is made of Nordic wood pulp paper, which is 100% recyclable. The inner wall of the bottle body has a protective film of biodegradable materials. Made of biodegradable plastic. The bottle is made of sustainable ink or laser engraved, again reducing the amount of material and making it very environmentally friendly.
The one-piece design enhances the strength of the bottle, and a wrinkled texture design is added to the lower half of the bottle for better grip. The drink will be piloted in the Hungarian market, 250ml, and the first batch is limited to 2,000 bottles.
Coca-Cola, which has pledged to make its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025, plans to have a system in place by 2030 to ensure every bottle or can packaging will be recycled.
Although degradable plastics have their own "environmental protection halo", they have always been controversial in the industry. Degradable plastics have become the "new favorite" to replace ordinary plastics. However, if degradable plastics are to develop for a long time, how to deal with the problem of scientific disposal of waste generated after the large-scale use of degradable plastics will restrict the health and sustainability of degradable plastics. key points of development. From this point of view, the promotion of degradable plastics has a long way to go.