But plastic is not the bad guy, nor are packaging manufacturers, retailers or consumers to blame. It’s the lack of investment in innovative ways to reprocess, recycle and effectively dispose of the material currently produced that has caused the issue. There was never a long-term plan nor has anyone thrown money at the wonderful innovators who are using single-use plastic as a raw material to create other amazing products.
There are solutions and brilliant ideas to make use of the disposable plastic out in production, which includes our very own FORMA and CLARITY composite decking and cladding panels. Our products are made using recycled plastics and recycled wood fibres. We will delve into that further, but first, here are some other great uses and ideas, which prove that there is life after single-use plastic.
We’ve all seen the viral video of filling potholes with plastic by MacRebur, which is a business that has branded itself the ‘Plastic Road Company’ thanks to backing from Virgin tycoon, Richard Branson. People loved it. People shared, commented and liked it. Even better, the process has been trialled on roads in the UK.
That idea is nothing new. In fact, the process has been around for a very long time. According to The Guardian, this technology was tested back in 2002 by Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai. The public donated plastic waste to test the technology, and a busy street in Chennai was the chosen location. The plastic was mixed with tar to pave the road – and it has stood the test of time. When the paper reported on the story back in 2016, the road had still not developed any cracks, potholes or craters that typically make their appearance after extreme weather conditions. The fact that plastic has a far longer decay rate, and higher melting point, when compared to bitumen, adds additional benefits, such as less road relaying and road melting in hot climates. It is, in essence, a great way to repurpose single-use plastic.
It would seem that the National Highway Authority of India took action on their country’s plastic waste problem a long time ago by embracing this innovative technology. We are glad that MacRebur is doing the same for the UK 15 years later.
Coffee Cup Saga
We also now hear of the excellent work that is been done to recycle the ENTIRE coffee cup. That includes the cheeky plastic film that no consumer really knew about until Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall vehemently informed us.
Before that, we all popped coffee cups into the recycling bin completely unaware that the Government, local authorities and recycling plants did not have the recycling capabilities to repurpose it because of the plastic film layer. Yet, the process exists at special recycling facilities and has done for a very long time. However, only three facilities are dedicated to turning paper and plastic cups into second-life materials in the UK.
Thankfully, the coffee shops, such as Costa, are investing some of their profits into improving recycling until other environmentally friendly disposable alternatives prove effective both in cost and production.
Manchester ‘to be plastic free by 2020’
Banning the use of single-use plastic is a great idea in principle.
It is clear that the plastic bags levy introduced in October 2015 has seen a massive drop in single-use plastic carrier bag circulation. In the Government’s latest summary, they stated that the ‘7 main retailers issued around 83% fewer bags in 2016/2017 compared to 2014’.
The proposed ban on sales of disposable straws, plastic cotton buds and other single-use plastic across England will also prove worthy in the long term, as it is these items that easily enter the water and are known to be the most serious source of marine pollution.
We are also proud that Greater Manchester is hoping to become the first UK city to ditch single-use plastics entirely. It has one of the most polluted waterways in England, and prominent Mancurians want to change this. According to XXX, the first stage would be to set up a consortium to buy reusable’s in bulk to make the switch affordable for small business owners.
Currently reusable and alternative, biodegradable materials are expensive to develop and produce. This will change over time as demand for these alternatives improves. It is also a strategy that focuses on the future, and although these statements make great headlines, it does not solve the problem of what we do with the single-use plastic that already exists right now.
A million plastic bottles are sold every minute across the world right now, and it is important that these have a proper lifecycle that doesn’t end in a land refill or the ocean. We are failing to keep up with the recycling of these PET materials, so at the same time as reducing use, we also need to increase our existing recycling efforts.
This is known as the ‘circular economy’, which, as a business, we are extremely proud to be part of.
How we repurpose plastic and wood
Ecoscape’s entire range of decking and cladding planks are 95% recycled. They use 30% wood fibres and 60% HDPE plastic.
Our Wood Fibres
The wood fibres come from joiner’s shops, furniture factories and manufacturers. We take the FSC certified off-cuts that are normally thrown away, sent to landfill or to an incinerator. We also recycle consumer wood waste to form our products.
The FSC certification is important to us as a business. It means that these wood off-cuts come from well-managed forests that have strict regulations. In essence, we have the assurance that our end product maintains its wood sustainability credentials throughout the entire manufacturing process.
Here is our proudest part. We mentioned the high volume of water bottles produced by the minute across the globe. Well, it is these bottles, along with milk bottles, that form the recycled HDPE plastic element of our decking and cladding panels. Now that is a well-managed circular economy for you.
The HDPE plastic, from the water and milk bottles, is cleaned up and turned into pellet form, in a very similar way to the pellets formed for the road technology. All our recycled HDPE is sourced from Europe. We, therefore, don’t have a massive supply chain transporting our raw materials for production.
It is extremely important to us that the post-consumer materials that we use to produce FORMA and CLARITY is wood and plastic that has served its intended purpose. We are producing sustainable wood fibre and plastic pellets to form a brand new material. These WPC products have a long life too. Ecoscape UK offers a 20 plus year warranty with our composite decking and cladding, with the expectation that our products will last much longer than that.
So there is a long lasting life after single-use plastics. Of course, reducing the globe’s current production is tremendously important, but please do remember that sustainable businesses, such as us, see the long-term potential of utilising an optimum recycling process to create something new. And we make your outdoor areas look amazing at the same time.
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