ResearchPod - Plastic Free July. A scale shows a selection of plastic waste on one side vs a growing plant on the other.

Plastic Free July: Plastic pollution solution

If you look around your kitchen, it’s likely that you’ll see a lot of plastic, ranging from the packaging that your food came in to the bag that lines your bin. Although plastic has been instrumental in shaping our current society, it is also one of the leading causes of pollution.

To counter the ever-growing presence of plastic in our lives, the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd started a campaign for Plastic Free July back in 2011. We’re joining in and have gathered a selection of our favourite podcasts about plastic waste, transitioning to a circular economy, and the role of informal labour in recycling e-waste products.

New standards for plastic analysis to prevent pollution

Plastic pollution is an environmental catastrophe in progress. 32% of the plastic we use escapes into the environment, and only 9% currently gets recycled.

British company Polymateria have developed additives for conventional plastics which facilitate biodegradation if they escape the waste stream. Their proposal has now been taken up by the American Society for Testing and Materials, as well as the British Standards Institute, as the preferred way to assess plastic transformation.

Waste management and transition to a circular economy

‘Sustainable development’ has become a familiar term, but with over 300 definitions it can mean different things to different people, and is proving difficult to achieve globally.

Dr Pekka Peura at the Vaasa Energy Business Innovation Center at the University of Vaasa and his colleagues, Dr Olli Voutilainen and Professor Jussi Kantola, trace the emergence and development of an innovative waste management system implemented in the Vaasa region of Finland.

Improving seafood shelf life and reducing food waste

Tilapia is one of the most popular seafood dishes, with annual production topping 6 million tonnes globally. However, fish is a highly perishable food, and large quantities of fish meat is discarded due to loss of quality between capture and final consumption. This raises concerns for both the consumer’s health and finances of seafood producers.

Dr Maria Lucia Guerra Monteiro at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and colleagues, investigate the effect of a new style of packaging, with or without ultraviolet treatment, on the freshness of tilapia fillets stored under refrigeration, aiming to reduce the food waste from an early loss of quality.

Valued waste/wasted value: e-waste recycling in Asia

Electronic waste (e-waste) contains a range of materials, including precious metals, which could be salvaged for reusable components and continue to offer economic value.

Dr Aidan Marc Wong investigates the central role of informal labour, in particular the karung guni in Singapore and Malaysia, who collect, disassemble, sort, and transform recycling and e-waste into raw materials for reuse.

He further discusses how such informal labourers can identify raw materials that contain unrealised value, and can give discarded items a new lease of economic life rather than letting them find their way to dump sites.

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