What if we could use greenhouse gas emissions to create a whole new kind of plastic? Here’s some good news! This organization has figured out how to knock out two of our biggest problems at once!

Mango Materials is creating biodegradable plastics with the same properties as the plastics we use every day by harnessing the power of one of the planet’s most potent greenhouse gasses: methane.

Is a future with sustainable plastic right around the corner? Let’s take a look!

Image: Plastic water bottles with blue caps and one bottle with a red cap

Source: Pixabay

Why solve our plastics problem with methane?

Well, as we all know, plastics are a big problem around the world. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans. To put that into perspective, “That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline in the world.” 1 And even recycling has its downsides, with only about 9% of plastics actually making it to a recycling facility. 2

Now, there are some “compostable” plastic options out there right now, but these plastics tend to not hold up to the tests we put our plastics through. And they aren’t even compostable by the average person! To break them down you need the help of an industrial compost facility.

So here’s where the methane comes in! Methane, when it gets released into the atmosphere, is really good at trapping heat. In fact, pound for pound, it’s 25 times better at trapping heat and warming the planet than carbon dioxide. 3. Although this is a naturally occurring gas, we produce a lot of it: our production of energy, industry, agriculture, and waste management all create methane emissions. 4 And this isn’t good.

But there’s good news, Mango Materials has found a way to capture the methane and turn it into biodegradable bioplastics with the same properties as conventional plastics!

How do they do this? It’s all thanks, in great part, to the power of bacteria!

Using the power of microbes, methane can be transformed into affordable bioplastics, creating everything from bags to packaging to clothing. These materials can then be composted in a backyard or sent to a waste facility where they can biodegrade, emit methane, and start the process all over again!

So, why isn’t this material being used by every plastic-using company in the world? Well, here’s a great video from Seeker that takes a look at the world of plastics and how Mango Materials could change that system!

Via: Seeker 5

Seeker is a great YouTube channel for anybody who is curious about the world of science and innovation. We absolutely love their work–some of us might just binge watch their videos for fun. They are a great resource if you’re looking for approachable but informative news and information!

If you want to learn more about Mango Materials, go check out their website. You can also keep up with them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

A Closed Loop Future!

Think about it: we could use bacteria to revolutionize the plastics industry! There is a future where the plastics we use come from bacteria, which means they can then be broken down by bacteria. It’s incredible to think that a closed-loop future for plastics isn’t far away—and the secrets are in the tiny organisms right under our nose.

“The technology of the next generation of plastics is already here, it’s the infrastructure we have to develop around it…”—Ajay Kathuria

When we look at an issue like plastics, it’s easy to say “that’s too big for me to control.” But our choices as consumers matter. The pressure we put on industries and governments to do better matters.

We are at an exciting tipping point when it comes to plastics. We can all agree that beaches strewn with bottles and whales found with bellies full of plastic are not good news. It’s up to us to vote with our wallet, to inform companies using absurd amounts of plastic in their packaging that we are unhappy, and ask for help from all levels of government to make it easier for products like Mango Materials’ plastic to make it to market!

This process begins with us pausing before every purchase, and asking “What is the lifecycle of this product?” “What does the end of this water bottle’s life look like?” “What happens to this styrofoam container when I’m done with it after one meal?” If we start asking ourselves these questions, we start to make better decisions about the products we buy and the products we’re demanding.

Changing the future of plastics is far from an impossible feat! We’ve changed hearts and minds about a lot of things over time, simply by shining a light on them. If you want a little proof, here’s a great piece we wrote about how photography changed the lives of millions of children in the early 1900s.

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We’re already turning the tide on plastics—let’s do what we can to help boost a revolution in reinventing plastic! Share this article and other good news you find with your friends!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

Tackling Plastic!

What are some other ways we’re tackling our plastic pollution problems? Check out some of the other articles we’ve written with some good news on the subject! There are so many great minds on this problem.

Plastic on EWC!

Notes:

  1. Parker, Laura. “The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained.” Nationalgeographic.Com, National Geographic, 7 June 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/.
  2. The Economist. “The Known Unknowns of Plastic Pollution.” The Economist, The Economist, 3 Mar. 2018, www.economist.com/international/2018/03/03/the-known-unknowns-of-plastic-pollution.
  3. US EPA, OAR. “Overview of Greenhouse Gases | US EPA.” US EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 23 Dec. 2015, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#methane.
  4. US EPA, OAR. “Overview of Greenhouse Gases | US EPA.” US EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 23 Dec. 2015, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#methane.
  5. Seeker. “How Close Are We to Reinventing Plastic?” YouTube, 18 Dec. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNhvQOGavgo. Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and the COO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV