The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a crisis in all fronts of our lives and global waste has been affected by it. An increase of plastic packaging from medical products used during the health crisis and the rise of buying online products due to lockdowns, along with concerns with the virus, has made people use single-use plastic. This has caused a surge of plastic waste that requires special attention.
Plastic waste management is one of the major environmental concerns and a huge challenge for both individuals recycling and the waste management industry, given its exponentially increase in the last decades. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the world generates approximately 400 million tons per year, only an estimated 12% of the plastics produced are incinerated and an estimated 9% are recycled. However, great part of plastic waste is not biodegradable, so it is disposed either in landfills or released in the environment including the oceans. UNEP states that without meaningful action, plastic waste in aquatic ecosystems is expected to rise up to 29 million tons in 2040.
Now that we know that a large amount of plastic waste is covering our planet, the questions are: Which are the impacts of plastic pollution in the environment? What can we do to contribute to plastic waste management? What are the benefits of plastic waste management solutions?
Plastic pollution has negative impacts in the environment for different reasons:
- Large plastic items can cause entanglement of animals.
- Plastic debris can provoke entanglement of aquatic species, leading to starvation, suffocation, laceration, infection and reduce their reproduction.
- Microplastics can be confused as plankton, therefore eaten by marine species.
In addition, 4% of petrol and gas extracted are used as raw material for virgin plastic production, and between 3 and 4% to generate energy for its manufacture.
ALLCOT offers an innovative and comprehensive solution that promotes the 3R principle: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle of plastic waste through sustainable construction and creating formal jobs. This initiative is an alternative solution to manufacture plastic waste bricks to construct houses and involve informal collectors that suffer from the hardships of informal work and discrimination. The project pretends to create formal jobs for informal collectors with the collaboration of NGOs, so that they can work with formal recycling companies that provide raw materials and PET pellets. After collecting the plastic, formalized collectors manufacture plastic bricks and use them to build houses for low income communities. ALLCOT provides the technology to create plastic bricks directly on site, which promotes the capacity building of local communities and the importance of plastic waste management. With this technology, plastic waste can be reshaped into a new product.
Houses made out of plastic bricks improve their adaptation to climate change, as they reduce plastic pollution and provide a better shelter to climate change impacts (heat waves, flooding, etc.), with further benefits to communities.
This comprehensive solution has multiple benefits in different areas:
- Environmental: Manufacturing plastic blocks thorough this technology prevents 22 lbs. (10 kg) from being dispose in landfilled or incinerated. It also meets different standard criteria regarding safety and toxicity, such as Greenguard and Greenguard Gold. Furthermore, it does not need additional glues or additives, and avoids greenhouse gas emissions and material depletion from manufacturing of clay bricks.
- Social: Plastic bricks manufacturing generate formal jobs in local communities under poverty and social exclusion conditions, by involving informal plastic collectors in the initiative from the beginning.
- Economic: A surplus of plastic bricks manufactured during the project could be sell to construction companies and workers, and the profits would go to formalized collectors.
At the same time, the economic conditions of collectors are being improved under a fair salary due to the project.
This initiative not only contributes to plastic waste management, but to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SGD):
Written by Alfredo Gil, Climate Change Waste Manager.
Our daily life is surrounded by plastic. Due to its high versatility, low price and properties (flexibility, durability and
lightness) it is present in packaging, clothing, construction materials, all kinds of objects and even as an ingredient in cosmetics. However, plastic is also often associated with the "use and throw away culture" since much of this material is used to manufacture a wide variety of containers that have a very short useful life. The simple gesture of throwing a plastic bottle on a beach takes about 500 years until it completely decomposes on the seabed. 8 million tons of plastic waste reaches the seas and oceans annually. This amount is equivalent to the weight of 800 Eiffel Tower, it could cover 34 times the island of Manhattan or equal the weight of 14,285 Airbus A380 aircrafts.
Currently, the most effective solution, when it is not possible to avoid its use or generation at source, consists of the recovery and recycling of these plastic waste. In order to encourage and evaluate the impact of this type of initiative, VERRA, with the support of the 3R Initiative, will launch the new “Plastic Waste Reduction Standard” in early 2021. This program aims to maintain consistent accounting and accreditation of a wide variety of plastic recovery and recycling activities anywhere in the world and to promote funding for projects that increase the recovery of plastic waste from the environment and / or its recycling. The Program will allow projects to be independently audited to determine to what extent they have reduced plastic waste and / or increased recycling rates. The so-called “plastic credits” will be equivalent to one ton of recovered or recycled plastic and will be issued based on the amount of plastic that is collected and recycled above the reference rates (usual or imposed by regulations) in each region.
These methodologies provide procedures for estimating net plastic waste recycled through mechanical recycling activities. Eligible initiatives will be the installation of new recycling facilities, capacity increases or technological improvement in existing recycling facilities, recycling of types of materials (including packaging) that have not been previously recycled in an existing facility, as well as incentivizing or facilitating the increase in the collection of plastic waste. The new program also establishes procedures to estimate the net plastic waste removed or diverted from its destination or usual final disposal through formal and informal recovery activities, with the aim of preventing this plastic from remaining or ending its life cycle in the environment.
Although this program is still in development and in public consultation phase, the technical department dedicated to the waste management sector at ALLCOT is already working on the use of these new methodologies to evaluate, develop and certify the first recycling and recovery of plastic waste projects in the VERRA registry. ALLCOT offers technical support throughout the initial evaluation process of eligibility under the new program of the different initiatives, the development of the project design documentation and the necessary calculations to determine the volume of “plastic credits” that will be generated. Once the project is registered in the program, ALLCOT will participate in the development of the Monitoring Reports and the periodic verification process.
Through participation and development in these new plastic waste recycling and recovery projects, ALLCOT continues to align its activity as always with the objectives established by the 2030 Agenda. These projects, framed in the “Plastic Waste Reduction Standard” will contribute decisively to the following Sustainable Development Goals: 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 11. Sustainable cities and communities, 12. Responsible consumption and production, 14. Life bellow water and 15. Life on land.