When you look at the streets, they are filled with plastic bags. Drive out on the highway – more plastic bags. Even drive along a country road and you’ll see plastic bags. Walk along an inner city river and the banks are festooned with plastic bags.
Many years ago environmental authorities introduced a concept to reduce the number of plastic bags used by shoppers. The idea was simple: place a levy of a few cents on the plastic bag. Some years later everyone or almost everyone seems to have forgotten about that. Plus if you go into how the levy was used sadly all you will find is mismanagement on a bizarre scale. No one likes to admit it but it was an idea that failed horribly.
The small community of Greyton in the Western Cape has come up with a far better idea. The community has decided to outlaw all plastic bags from their town and replaced them with a long-life bags. They intend launching the plastic break free campaign to rid the town of single-use plastic shopping bags by National Plastic Bag Free Day. They have found a colourful, attractive, sturdy long-life bag. Some of the local shop owners have shown resistance but fortunately the campaign organisers have won most of them over. The only flaw that I see in the plan is that they do not advertise that the long-life shopping bag is biodegradable or not. It appears that they are sourcing the bag from outside the town which is not a eco-sustainable way. It would be far better that these long-life shopping bags are made locally so that they have a lower carbon footprint.
The thing is the environment and attempts to reduce the harm or impact on the environment can be good business for the small entrepreneur and local community business. It can also be profitable for eco-pioneers who use existing and new technologies to do things differently to protect or minimised damage to the environment.
A scientist has been brought on board together with a chemical and industrial engineer to develop an easy-to-compost plastic bag in the United States. The start-up has created and tested a number of products. Pilot scale production volumes are being used for specific customer applications while the company moves towards commercial volumes.
The bags are lignin, a compound of plant cell walls discarded in the papermaking process. It is cheap and plentiful and can make “green” polymers from a renewable source rather than from petroleum. Cycle Wood Solutions has produced single-use plastic bags, trash can liners, meat bags and is testing cups and plates. The bags because they are made of all-natural components can become compost just like any other plant-based material.
As plastic garbage bags of being outlawed in many places worldwide because they don’t degrade, opportunities are available for eco-preneurs who can come up with new ideas and new technology to provide products that are eco-friendly and offers solutions to environmental degradation.