The plastics waste crisis isn't getting better. Last spring, we reported that in 2025 fish in the ocean will outweigh plastic by only three to one, and by 2050 plastic will outweigh fish entirely if something doesn't change. Since then, studies have found microplastics ingested by deep-sea animals at 6,000 feet below sea level, microbeads in seafood we're eating, and over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers released with a single load of clothes washed.
Willem De Vos, CEO of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), spoke at the sixth international Plasticity Forum, "Designing for the Future - Plastic and the Circular Economy," in London. The event brought together product designers, plastics experts, and recycling professionals to discuss the future of plastic sustainability. (Source: Plasticity Forum)
So what can engineers do about this? How about reducing plastic waste by changing the way they design plastic products? That was the question addressed by speakers at the sixth international Plasticity Forum , "Designing for the Future - Plastic and the Circular Economy," held in London recently. The event brought together product designers, plastics experts, and recycling professionals to discuss the future of plastic sustainability, against the background fact that less than 15% of all plastic that's ever produced is recycled.
he Plasticity Forum organization takes the view that plastics pollution may be a major problem and a major challenge, but it also represents an opportunity to come up with new solutions for product design that can be used across many different industries, as well as new, more eco-friendly materials. The events aim to bridge the gap between the design community and experts working with plastics, recycling, and sustainable practices that lead to waste reduction. They foster discussion about where opportunities can be created to reduce waste, recycle content, recover resources, and create jobs.
For example, France recently banned the sale of disposable, single-use plastic cups and plates starting in 2020, unless they are made of 50% biologically sourced materials that can be composted in a home composting unit. That's going to require a lot of new materials, and maybe a lot more composting units. The action followed a country-wide ban in July on single-use plastic bags, which the French government estimates at 17 billion per year. That's also a lot of material that either needs to be created, or made in larger quantities. These bans, says Plasticity in a press release, recognize the problems caused by plastic pollution.
A big part of the solution can be product designers. They are "one of the missing links to solving some of the complex solutions related to materials, designing for recycling, and societal process flow in terms of resource recovery," says Plasticity. "Those who know the issues will be better able to drive expansion of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the brands and clients they work for should be striving to meet."
Designers & Innovators Learn more about some of the latest designers and innovators and what they're up to at ESC Silicon Valley , Dec. 6-8, 2016 in San Jose, Calif.