The most common raw materials used to make plastics are oil and natural gas. We can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by replacing petroleum-based plastics with plastics made from renewable raw materials like plants. More environmental benefits can be gained by replacing petroleum-based plastics with plastics that degrade, biodegrade, or compost.
Bioplastics, or biobased and compostable plastics, have the potential to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, promote the development of more sustainable products, and increase food waste diversion from landfills.
While environmental awareness and outrage in wealthier countries has limited the use of plastics in products and packaging, many developing countries, such as Kenya, continue to grow their plastic industries and often bear the brunt of the western world’s waste through the latter’s plastic exports. Plastic pollution has drowned these countries due to a lack of infrastructure to manage waste and funds to export it elsewhere. It has blocked roads, clogged waterways, damaged fields, and become intricately mixed into animal feeds. Despite having strict laws in place to prevent plastic pollution, Kenya continues to be plagued by this non-biodegradable form of waste.
The current method of producing and consuming plastics is unsustainable. Plastic pollution has been exacerbated by the massive production and consumption of plastics, particularly single-use plastic products. Plastic pollution has an impact on our ecosystems, endangers animal lives, and poses a health risk to humans. There is simply too much plastic to manage, and recycling alone is insufficient. Plastic pollution is a complicated matter that necessitates a systematic approach.
Since launching Precious Plastic in 2013, product designer Dave Hakkens has become the spearhead of a global recycling movement. A vast community of makers, hackers and entrepreneurs are now connected through the project, which develops and shares solutions for reducing plastic waste. Their latest research project takes things one step further. In their own words, the Beyond Plastic series is all about “trying to find out what the future of plastic could look like.”
“Making stuff from recycled plastic is pretty cool, but we know we need to break up with plastic in the long run,” explains the team in a statement. That’s why they decided to learn more about biodegradable alternatives to plastic, and investigate different methods to process and produce them. The centrepiece of the project is the new Beyond Plastic Bio Press, a strong heat press that allows you to turn a lot of different organic materials into biodegradable products like plates, bowls or cups. From the team’s first experiments, it’s clear that you can get beautiful, surprising results from using food waste like wheat bran, coffee grounds and orange peels, or agricultural waste like leaves and pine needle.
With the help of “Beyond Plastics” and ISK, we have been able to create a bioplastic heat press which enables me to test out different materials in the machine, hence turning food waste into compostable plastic. I aimed to find the perfect material that works with the environment in Kenya and at the same time, is durable and efficient to use.