I’m often asked which option is better for end-of-life plastic packaging; should we recycle it or have it biodegradable? As is true with any sound environmental solution, the answer is often not as easy as choosing one option over another. The real answer to this question is: what is the problem and what end-of-life option(s) is going to solve that problem?
When it comes to solving the plastic pollution problem; a problem that we are already waist deep into, the best solution will not be those that are designed for the perfect world or the best case scenarios. There are a lot of ideas and beliefs that we should be coming up with a silver bullet perfect world solution, and we could do that – some even have. The reality is that we don’t live in a world with only one way of doing things and we certainly shouldn’t think that only one solution is going to solve plastic pollution. Many of those “perfect world” solutions find a short lived life because they don’t start solving the problem with where we are today. A sound solution for this issue has to be implementable today and allow the flexibility to take us into the improvements of tomorrow. So, a long way to get to the short answer to what is the best end-of-life option is we should be doing both: products that are both recyclable and biodegradable.
Traditional in-the-box thinking pushes us to think about solutions to problems as picking one option over another. What we are learning when it comes to making true environmental changes is that we need to think about things more as a whole – how does the result of something effect both the upstream and downstream of any given system or process? At ENSO we strive to think outside-the-box. To solve the plastic pollution issue, we need to implement solutions that take into consideration a number of factors.
For example; we’ve all heard about, and hopefully try to live by, the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These are important words we should all commit to implementing in our lives. Reducing our consumption would be a huge key in solving the plastic pollution issue we face. However, the reality with the growth of population, consumption and packaging “Reducing” is not really moving us in a positive direction. Sure, it’s a great short-term solution for manufacturers and brands to reduce the amount of plastics being used in their packaging. But in the end, it’s not really stopping the growth of plastic used – it is simply slowing it down for a bit. As populations grow in size and as parts of the world race to catch up to western living standards we will continue to see growth in the overall use of plastic packaging.
Reusing has even less of a positive impact towards reducing the volumes of plastics consumed and discarded each year. Sure, we should strive to reuse as much as we can but the trend is moving towards a more disposable approach. Here in the United States, “reusing is not embraced nearly enough to make much of a positive impact.
This leads us to the third “R”, or Recycling. Recycling is where most of our efforts come together. It’s hard not to find a recycle bin or sign encouraging us to recycle. Recycling is sexy and makes us feel good and it’s very tangible. You can do your part, by recycling, and feel like you are part of the solution. We have spent decades building recycling infrastructures and businesses and implementing legislation to help support and improve recycling.
However; the reality that we must recognize is that there is a BIG gap in the 3 R’s. The gap is that we still send a whole heck of A LOT of plastics to landfills. These are the same plastics that are technically recyclable and reusable but we send upwards of 93% of all plastics into landfills to get buried and forgotten. What can we do about this? Well, we could just ignore the problem; but, that isn’t going to get us closer to solving it. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” should be front and center to solving this issue; but even then, we still end up with too many plastics going into landfills.
At ENSO we believe we have engineered the solution for the gap in the 3R’s. A recyclable and biodegradable plastic closes the gap within the 3 R’s. ENSO Plastics has developed a family of biodegradable additive resins; which, when blended with standard polymers, result in plastic packaging which is fully recyclable and will not contaminate the recycle stream. If recycling happens to not be available, the plastic packaging that is enhanced with the ENSO additive, when placed into a landfill of soil environment full of microbes, will naturally biodegrade just like other organic material in that same environment.
ENSO technology is a revolutionary environmental break through and allows brands, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to do something about the plastic pollution issue today.