Dilemma of Resource Utilization
The Reality of Package Reuse
In recent years, the concept of “reuse,” where packages are used repeatedly, has gained significant attention.
This comes in response to the inadequate recycling systems. According to studies, about 80% of plastic waste lies buried in landfills or the natural environment.
Could reuse become an environmental solution to replace this?
There are two main advantages to this approach. Firstly, since reuse is based on repeated use, there’s no need to manufacture a large number of packages. Secondly, there’s no need for complex processes like recycling.
However, despite these benefits, there’s skepticism about whether people will support reuse and whether it’s genuinely environmentally friendly. The conclusion is that the environmental impact heavily depends on people’s endorsement and participation in the system.
The reuse of packages involves a recovery period, determining how many times the energy spent on manufacturing and cleaning can be recuperated through reuse. In other words, only after multiple rounds of reuse can this approach become a starting point for an environmental solution.
Amidst these challenges, what initiatives are companies undertaking?
“Loop,” a platform that replaces and collects reusable packaging for food and household items, has achieved over 80% recovery rates by introducing a deposit system for packaging.
Furthermore, to simplify participation in the reuse system, they have expanded touchpoints from online offerings and collection to retail stores in the United States and abroad. They are also installing collection boxes for easy returns in various locations.
Improving accessibility to reuse like this could be a crucial first step towards environmental solutions.
However, it’s important to note that even with reuse, we can’t offset the energy required to manufacture and transport the contents of these packages. Ultimately, as long as we continue to create something, we might not be able to avoid the environmental costs.
Potential of Biomass Streams
In our childhood science classes, we learned that trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air. But let’s consider a question for adults: what happens to the carbon dioxide absorbed by trees when they decompose?
The answer, of course, is that the absorbed carbon dioxide is released back into the air upon decomposition. When it comes to addressing the CO2 issue, it’s clear that planting trees alone won’t fully solve the problem. We need to consider how we utilize and manage the wood from these trees after they’ve served their purpose.
“Made of Air,” a Berlin-based environmental startup, has disrupted this cycle. They produce carbon-negative bioplastics from discarded wood while preventing the release of CO2. Their mission isn’t merely to reduce CO2 emissions but to remove carbon entirely.
Since its founding in 2016, they have manufactured approximately 10 tons of bioplastics, used in various products such as building materials, furniture, and even car parts. Collaborative projects include using their materials for Audi store facades and frames for H&M sunglasses.
While tree planting for environmental protection has been a common concept, considering how to utilize and manage these trees after planting them is crucial for future Earth improvements. Such news prompts us, as consumers, to increasingly consider the type of plastic used in products. A future where we make purchase decisions based on the material’s composition is fast approaching.
Before Preparing for Winter
“Affordable and environmentally friendly products.”
Hearing these words often sparks the desire to reach out and purchase. However, there’s still room for consideration before making this decision.
Irish fast-fashion brand “Primark” has declared its goal to replace all clothing products with either recycled materials or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
CEO Paul Marchant states, “Sustainable products should be accessible to everyone, regardless of income.”
Yet, the allure of “affordability” can loosen our purse strings and potentially encourage overconsumption. When the motivation of sustainability is added to the mix, the speed of consumption might further accelerate.
Rose Marcario, former CEO of Patagonia, left us with the words, “The most environmentally friendly piece of clothing is the one you already own.”
As the weather turns colder, the enjoyable season of choosing winter clothing has arrived. While preparing for winter, I peer into my closet and notice the second and third-string clothes that I haven’t worn in years. The chill in the air gives me pause. Alright, let’s get through this winter with these.
Of course, purchasing new clothes isn’t inherently bad. If you’re already considering winter purchases, I recommend opting for affordable and environmentally friendly items that you’d want to use for a long time.
Beyond the Recycling Box
The dream of 100% recycling and circulation of items tossed into recycling boxes might still be a far-off reality.
In California, the majority of items thrown into recycling bins are not actually recyclable, leading to significantly lower recycling rates. In response, the state legislature has passed a bill prohibiting the use of recycling symbols on items that cannot be proven to have been recycled within local communities.
It begs the question: Can using discarded plastic for energy really be labeled as “reuse”? Only a small portion of discarded plastic is actually recycled back into the market.
Amid our daily consumption habits, we often rely on ethical labels without fully facing the realities behind them. Even if a product states, “Made with recycled materials,” the percentage can fluctuate greatly between 5% and 80%.
It’s time to not just lean on ethical labels while strolling through supermarkets. Instead, let’s consider the context behind the products and confront them.
Trade-Off Between Recycling and Quality
In Denmark, beverage prices include a deposit for disposable containers. With easily accessible recycling machines in every supermarket, it’s straightforward to receive a cash refund by returning empty plastic bottles.
Since the introduction of this deposit system, Denmark has recycled around 1.2 billion beverage containers, resulting in a recycling rate exceeding 90%. A new project has now been initiated to enhance the circulation of plastic waste generated from households.
Led by the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), and with the support of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA), the project aims to optimize reprocessing techniques and improve the quality of recycled plastics.
This effort is necessary to enable repeated recycling of plastic, as the current problem lies in the fact that much of the discarded plastic is “downcycled” into lower-quality products.
As we discuss reducing environmental impact, the trade-off between recycling and quality (or product lifespan) will become a pressing concern in the future.