In my previous blogs I have written about the truth of what happens with industrial composting and recycling, and why I don’t believe they are the answer to solving the plastic waste crisis. But if neither of these commonly accepted practices are the answer, what is? First, it’s important to clarify something. Industrial composting and recycling don’t work for most of the country (at least right now) because they rely on closed-loop systems.
A closed-loop system is one where no waste is ever going to a landfill, but is instead being diverted to another facility that can either recycle or compost the waste product. This is an excellent idea and one we should continue working towards, but it requires a massive investment in infrastructure, disposal practices, consumer education, and regulation. To give you an idea of how far we are from a viable closed-loop national system, less than 10% of all plastic gets recycled, and less than 5% of industrially compostable products get composted.
Given this, it is absolutely crucial to rapidly introduce products to the market that don’t require a closed-loop system to have an end-of-life waste profile that isn’t harmful to the environment. It is PlantSwitch’s mission to make that happen using the newest and best technology avialable. For a product to meet the PlantSwitch criteria, it must come from renewable resources (ie. plants), and be designed to degrade in the environments where it will ultimately end up (ie. landfills, soil, home compost, or the ocean). Right now the products we use are designed for landfill degradation, and our goal is to have marine degradable products within the next year.
There are a lot of exciting things happening with plant-based technology right now, and I believe we are only a couple years away from having a fully marine and landfill biodegradable material that is ready for commercial scalability in all manufacturing applications. This would provide the ultimate solution to combatting plastic waste, which is to stop producing plastic altogether. Recycling and composting are great practices, but the reliance on a closed loop system is in my opinion less feasible and will take much longer to implement effectively than a complete plastic replacement.