Approaches against plastic waste


In contrast to materials such as glass, ceramics and wood, plastics don’t have a good reputation among consumers nowadays. More and more appeals to avoid plastics are initiated on consumer websites, by environmental organisations, in supermarkets and department stores (by way of example, plastic bags are often only available for a small fee). They all agree: plastic waste is climate-damaging and must be reduced.
In Germany you collect packaging in so called “yellow bags” or “yellow tons”. While you expect these items to be recycled, their majority actually ends up in a waste incinerator. That’s frustrating.
So it’s better to use less or biologically degradable packaging in the first place, isn’t it?
Several approaches are already promising:
There is a shop in my neighbourhood that sells foodstuff like cooking oil, rice and oatmealwithout packaging, which you can carry home in your own bottle or container.
Another example: coffee cups. Mountains of disposable cups – coated with plastics on the inside – have been built due to the global “coffee to go” mania. As these paper come with a thinplastic coating inside, they aren’t considered paper waste. Seldom they end up in a yellow bag either. Fortunately, I see more and more people on the streets holding reusable thermos-mugs in their hands. I have a few of them at home myself. They have virtually turned into a clever commercial gimmick. So I received one of them from a raw materials supplier at the recentEuropean Coatings Show and one during a visit at a coating manufacturing plant nearby. Bigger cities have started issuing reusable mugs on the basis of a deposit system, which are available at the bakery around the corner, for instance.
In my hometown Hannover they have just introduced “Hannoccino”, which will have its premiere at the first home game of Hannover 96, the local first league football team. Not only is this cup reusable, but it basically consists of bio-based components (biopolymers, natural resins, cellulose, and natural reinforced fibres), though I don’t know whether a coating prevents the cup from soaking and, if there is a coating at all, what it is made of. That would be interesting to learn.
Keyword food: As the demand for organic food is rising, so is the demand for bio-degradable packaging. Thinking about this, a project by the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC comes to my mind. Researchers have developed a compostable, functional material in order to coat bioplastics. The coating blocks odours, water vapour and oxygen.
In spite of all these approaches, from what I’ve read Germany is champion in producing plastic waste. And also the coating of plastic parts in automotive, electronics and children’s toys is increasing.

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