Future of plastics, micro plastics and oceans - what next in protecting marine ecosystems. Future of biodegradable plastics. The truth about recycling industry globally. Sustainability keynote speaker VIDEO / POST

Futurist Keynote Speaker: Posts, Slides, Videos - Future GreenTech, Sustainability Keynote Speaker

Future of plastics and how emotion drives single issues, creating people movements and immediate changes in government regulation, corporate behaviour and consumer choices. Comment during keynote for Boehringer Ingleheim by Futurist Patrick Dixon. Impact on food packaging, supply chains and waste disposal / recycling.

Extract from The Future of Almost Everything - latest book

One of the easiest ways to save energy, forests and raw materials is to recycle. A $500 billion industry is assisted by subsidies and public goodwill, and will grow rapidly over the next three decades, especially in emerging markets, mainly as a result of new laws. 34% of all copper used in factories is already from recycled sources; 500 million tons of steel is recycled in America each year; and 20% of all steel production is recycled, in a process that saves 75% of energy in that industry.

In America alone, the business of recycling corporate waste is worth more than $80bn a year, growing 1% a year, creating 450,000 jobs. But over 2000 landfill sites are still taking waste and only 10% of solid waste is recycled. Every American produces 2kg of waste a day, or 64 tons over an average lifetime, America throws away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. As I predicted, the Chinese government has now banned most imported plastic and paper waste, which means 40% more American and European household waste will be processed locally.

Around 400 million tons of plastic is in already in the oceans, and on current trends, the weight of marine plastics will be greater than all the fish in the sea by 2050. Micro-particles are now found in just about every marine creature, as well as in millions of people. Expect thousands of new regulations over the next decade globally, to force rapid action on this problem. Part of this will involve a big rethink about polyester clothing – a single clothes wash can release 700,000 microplastic fibres.

A single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100 watt light bulb for four hours. From carbon emissions point of view, plastics are a very long term method of carbon capture:  they are inert, and carbon molecules in almost all plastics will not convert to carbon dioxide for thousands of years – unless they are made of biodegradeable polymers, a relatively new market that will be worth $6 billion by 2023.

We will see many innovations in collecting and sorting domestic refuse. Car breakers’ yards in the EU are already achieving 100% recovery. Entire cars are cut into small granules of eighteen different materials, separated automatically in a continuous process.

The same technology is already being used for domestic and commercial waste in countries with high labour costs, sorting tens of millions of tons a year without human beings involved.  But emerging nations will continue almost entirely to sort by hand.

BUY NOW: The Future of Almost Everything - published by Profile Books.


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