|Reclaiming plastics from the sea
In business, solving big problems can lead to big profits. One of our largest environmental problems is the millions of tons of plastic waste that wind up floating in our oceans and washing up on beaches. It’s not only unclean, but a massive waste of raw material that should otherwise be recycled. Most importantly, it’s an ecological disaster affecting marine life and ultimately human health. Finding new ways to prevent or recover discarded plastics from rivers and oceans could be a gold mine business for 21st century entrepreneurs. Imagine how larger streams of recycled plastic could reduce our reliance on virgin material and the related energy consumption and pollution consequences.
But it will be tough going. Nevertheless, a few pioneering companies are beginning to recycle ocean plastics as a way of drawing public and government attention to the problem of ocean plastics pollution. ...read more
Food waste drawing industry attention
Food residuals may represent one of the recycling world’s biggest opportunities, as food waste has continued to pile up in landfills while other components of the materials stream are increasingly being recycled. Composting plays a primary role in turning food residuals into useful products, but so far the food waste stream has hardly been touched by composting efforts.
The opportunity is significant. Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills, according to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Forty percent of all food generated ends up as waste, according to the report, and the amount of food waste from homes, restaurants and other sources has grown 50 percent since the 1970s.
“Currently over 34 million tons of food waste is being generated in the U.S. and 97 percent plus is going to landfill,” said Michael Virga, executive director of the U.S. Composting Council in Bethesda, Maryland. “This is an enormous potential feedstock for the composting and anaerobic digestion industries.”
“As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path – that’s money and precious resources down the drain,” said Dana Gunders, a scientist with the NRDC who authored the recent report. Gunders said producing food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of freshwater consumption, as well as 4 percent of oil consumption. “Moreover, uneaten food accounts for 23 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S. – a potent climate change pollutant,” she said. ...read more