Currently, 91% of the world’s plastic isn’t recycled, and there are 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic on our Earth. If these trends continue, there will be 12 billion metric tons of landfill by 2050. Even the 2,000 active landfills that the United States holds is rapidly running out of space. Below in this article, we will cover the Innovative Tech Is Making These Five Products Biodegradable.
Garbage is polluting our oceans at an alarming rate. In March 2019, a young whale that died in the Davao Gulf of the Philippines was washed ashore. Mammal experts performed a necropsy and found nearly 90 pounds of plastic in its stomach—eight percent of its total weight. The plastic was so densely packed, the animal likely died of dehydration and starvation, and was foaming blood at the mouth. As horrifying as this story is, there are countless others just like it. Although environmentalists are making strides, there’s still an immense amount of pollution in our oceans each day.
Changing mass consumer behavior is difficult, but thanks to innovative technology, we can expect more of the materials we use most to transition into biodegradable products. Here are a few ways this is happening today:
The majority of baby diapers contain chemicals like petroleum that are difficult to break down, and it can take up to 500 years for a single diaper to disintegrate. Many eco-conscious mothers have started to utilize reusable diapers, but now biodegradable options have emerged on the market. Chlorine-free, earth-friendly alternatives are not only great for your baby’s skin, but safe for the environment. For instance, eco by Naty is a line of earth-friendly that are free from GMOs, have a high absorbency, made from FSC certified wood pulp, use a corn film waterproofing barrier, and is chlorine and fragrance free.
Printed Circuit Boards
Take a few steps in any direction, and chances are there’s a printed circuit board within arm’s reach. You’ll find them in cell phones, computers, cars, and virtually anything electronic. Although printed circuit boards are small, they pack a powerful punch—and the software technology behind its design is teeming with equally robust features, like trace impedance calculator capabilities and schematic capture applications.
However, when technology like cell phones are discarded, recycling those individual tiny parts is highly complex, and many of those components—including PCBs—end up in landfill and in the oceans. Over at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a group of scientists have made a breakthrough with a fully biodegradable printed circuit board derived from natural cellulose fibers that disintegrates when it comes in contact with water.
Six Pack Rings
Many eco-conscious campaigns have honed in on sea animals trapped in six-pack plastic rings in the ocean. The standard six-pack ring takes 450 years to decompose. They trap animals and are often mistaken for food, not to mention the amount of pollution it contributes.
A company called E6PR developed effective six-pack rings made of wheat and barley that naturally degrade within a few weeks when they’re tossed away in the garbage. In seawater, they would disintegrate quicker. Many major breweries and corporations have reached out to the startup about the product, but the technology is still new and relatively expensive to produce compared to traditional methods.
In the future, we can expect heightened awareness and developing technology to drive these costs down and make biodegradable six-packs more accessible to companies of all sizes and budgets.
Plastic bottles are among the biggest culprit for landfill contribution. According to research, more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away each day in the United States alone. Americans consume bottled water at a rate of 70 million bottles per day, and the majority of tossed bottles end up in American landfill, and these bottles clog streams that feed into American rivers. Even worse—these plastics take thousands of years to break down. Recycling certainly mitigates the problem, but it doesn’t solve it.
Now, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic bottles are emerging. For instance, Cove is the first completely biodegradable bottled water to hit the market (launching in California this year). The PHA material it’s comprised of breaks down into organic waste when it’s in compost or landfill. Though its material still does take a bit of time to break down, the company compared the bottled to “a flower or an orange peel.”
Glass Beer Bottles
This one applies to any bottles, but the beer bottle industry is particularly at fault here. Although plastics are harmful to the environment, glass bottles are also a huge drain on natural resources. Standardizing glass containers would be a more attainable goal for beverage companies, but it has yet to happen. In 2015, Carlsberg, a Danish beer bottle company, announced that it would take strides towards using a biodegradable bottle option. The new bottles would be similar in structure and texture to egg cartons, however, its inner coating would prevent the bottle from becoming soggy.