Michael Hall concludes his series on the problem of plastic by turning things on their head and offering a cradle to cradle solution.
This article is much more fun to write than my previous two because it is not a grizzle about the woes of the world, instead it is suggesting that the scale of a problem is smaller than the opportunity it presents.
Sure you can tinker around the edges and suggest stopping using plastic or recycling it time and time again into useful trinkets. But does that really fix the problem or does it needs something more fundamental to make David Attenborough and the folks at the Davos World Economic Forum smile?
So what would do that? Let’s start by considering the things that upset them in the first place! We are wasting resources and not being responsible about what we use and what happens aft er we discard it.
Why not turn that sentence on its head and be responsible for using up waste so we never need to discard it again by creating a permanently useful stock of resources.
So if we could convert plastic waste into something so essential that everyone would want to use it now and for generations to come, why would that work? Define essential and you have a starting point then ask if you can imagine what would be still useful in the future.
How about shelter, however basic or advanced you want to make it? Somewhere beautiful you or anyone else can live, work and play that meets personal and community needs. If you forget bricks and mortar, can you imagine a warm, comfortable and safe place if it happens to be made of something stronger, lighter and more thermally efficient (plastic) plus maintained with natural renewable energy with minimal environmental impact? We have the science to do this!
How many new buildings and structures does the world need now and to come. Enough I suspect to use up all the waste plastic we have already made. Would that make you smile?
Breaking things down and recreating with simple systems means not just eliminating complexity but our mindsets. It has to be better for us, cost less while benefiting the environment and society physically and emotionally, plus a lot more.
For one thing it would mean converting a profit and loss expense (waste disposal) into a balance sheet asset which would keep business happy. For another, the cost of housing, structures and buildings would drop because of a plentiful supply of second hand material designed to last forever. Third, but not least, converting waste into innovation value will change how we all behave.
Philips in the Netherlands now sells light not lightbulbs and shortly IKEA will rent kitchens and lounges in a new model based on the ‘performance economy’ that predicts huge opportunities for cradle to cradle products and systems.
We at C6(n) see a big future picture for structures and buildings consisting of a kit of modular, lightweight, load-bearing parts that can be assembled into anything you can imagine, be changed, re-arranged and easily re-purposed somewhere else.
Making the parts with plastic waste is far more satisfying because it matters to us and, fundamentally, plastic is such a good material (whatever its type). But then there are other waste resources to consider and that will be next on our journey’s list.
If you have ideas and suggestions we would love to hear from you. EVENTS Fantastic Plastic! Hall is chairman of Above All C6(n), experts in composite materials and innovators of turning event waste into permanently useful products. www.c6n. co.uk / www.above-all.co.uk / 02380 972093