Let’s talk about shoes. Everyone has them, everyone wears them and nowadays it can even be a luxury good. The selection is wide and besides, the amount of materials is tremendous: cotton, canvas, leather… and also these kinds of materials vary (such as pineapple leather for vegans). But have you ever heard chewing gum-made shoes? Uh… what? Chewed chewing gum…? Yep.
If you think that the chewing gum pieces will be picked from the street to deform them into a shoe, you’re absolutely right. Why would you do that? Because a lot of chewing gum ends up on the street. In the Netherlands alone, 1,5 million kilograms of chewing gum is thrown away outside of the trashcan every year and the biodegradability of chewing gum is between 20-25 years (GumShoe Amsterdam, 2018). To conclude, not so sympathetic for the environment and that’s why I Amsterdam came up with the idea to recycle the discarded chewing gum. Because chewing gum is made of synthetic rubber, it’s possible to generate a new kind of rubber by breaking down these properties. A specialized cleaning team collected chewing gum from all over Amsterdam. Then I Amsterdam collaborated with shoe company Explicit to create the first chewed-chewing-gum-shoe ever. These shoes are a step closer to chewing gum free streets and simultaneously, it’s a reminder to the damage people inflict by throwing chewing gum on the street (Ong, 2018).
I Amsterdam is not the only company that engages in recycling. The consumers care more and more about sustainability and the environment. In the last years, the amount of consumers that pay attention to climate benefits of purchases have increased (Bureau of Economic Analysis [BEA], 2017). Plenty of businesses are responding to this. You almost can’t be profitable if your product isn’t biodegradable or made of recycled materials.
Plastic is a huge problem on earth. Every year, 9 billion tons of litter end up in the ocean (Statistic Brain Research Institute [SBRI], 2018). We can prevent this in two ways: ensure plastic isn’t needed and/or protect the environment toward plastic that will be used. Already, many steps have been taken for the second option, such as recycling litter in more effective ways.
A few examples: the company PlasticWhale creates plastic-made office furniture (PlasticWhale, n.d.), Strick Amsterdam reuses plastic for laces (Strick, 2017) and Iamstrawless is a movement against plastic straws (Iamstrawless, n.d.). Another advancement is that you have to pay for plastic bags in the Netherlands since a few years and the European Commission desires to proscribe plastic objects like swabs (Qureshi, 2018). And have you ever heard of plogging: running with a bag to pick up the waste you see on the way? (Poole, 2018) A lot is going on in the plastic world.
I came across another project that’s probable to be powerful: plastic roads. In Ghana, pollution is a large issue and only two per cent of the litter is being recycled (World Economic Forum [WEF], 2018). That’s why Nelplast Ghana Limited discovered a method to reuse all the plastic bags. Meanwhile they create a type of plastic made paving stone, which have been designed into roads. The ‘stones’ consist of 60% grinded plastic bags and 40% sand. The roads can be build out of all kinds of plastic, not specifically from bags. The aim of the business is to recycle 70% of all plastic in Ghana. The Ministry of Environment has already used the paving stones in several places in Ghana and is helping to publicize the initiative. Nelplast proves it’s conceivable to create new jobs (200 people work at this company), clean up the environment and create a useful product (Asiedu, 2018) (Nwakanma, 2018).
After some research I found out more countries engage in creating plastic roads. The ‘Plastic Man’ established 5000km of 15% recycled plastic built roads in India in 2014 (Kras, 2014) and in the Netherlands, the business PlasticRoad has carried out similar developments (PlasticRoad, n.d.).
I believe this is a great improvement. Of course, reusing litter to create small products is advantageous, but this initiative will have a real impact. Our globe consists of 40 million kilometres of road. These roads are built out of millions of oil barrels. Normal roads consist of 90% stones, limestone and sand and 10% asphalt for the binding. Asphalt is extracted from rough oil, but plastic can replace this oil. Plastic roads are cheaper to build, less susceptible for holes and more eco-friendly (British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC], 2017) (Lant, 2017). PlasticRoad claims their roads last three times longer, are constructed 70% faster and are 100% circular (PlasticRoad, n.d.). So these roads are a win-win situation: the environment will be tidied up and the roads improved.
As I asserted, we can protect the earth against plastic in two manners: recycling it or by ensuring plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean simply by not using it. There are developments in this area as well. For example, world’s first plastic-free supermarket has opened in Amsterdam. The pop-up store is established in a building from Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza (Taylor, 2018). The 700 plastic-free products in this store all contain the recently introduced ‘Plastic-Free-label’. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet: ‘’The launch of world’s first plastic-free pop-up-supermarket is a milestone in the worldwide fight against plastic waste. For decades, the consumer has been deceived to believe that supermarket products can’t be plastic-free. This pop-up store proves the opposite. We hope that other supermarkets will get inspired by Ekoplaza Lab’’ (Seleky, 2018).
Doubtless to say, all these activities for a better planet are magnificent, but I’m wondering… why is this all happening now and not 50 years ago? Has the amount of litter increased? The answer is yes. The total manufactured plastic in 2000-2010 was higher than the quantity of the whole previous century (Thompson, 2009 ). Analysts anticipate the produced waste will rise due to economic growth and population growth. As a result, 100 up to 250 more million kilos of plastic will end up in the oceans before 2025 (Jambeck, et al., 2015). Calculations show us that the ‘litter spike’ will occur by 2100 (Hoornweg, Bhada-Tata & Kennedy, 2013). Even the turnover of chewing gum has increased significantly (Statista , 2015). Presumably, so has the quantity of chewing gum on the street.
Something positive: if the current movements around recycling and plastic alternatives persist, the worldwide amount of thrown away plastic will decline from 50% to 6% in 2050 (Geyer, Jambeck & Law, 2017)
I believe these increases have made us more aware and concerned. All these developments and movements point out there’s something big going on, let’s name it Atmosaving. It stands for the responsibility that people feel to ‘save’ the earth. It isn’t clear if our ancestors knew of the harm that plastic causes to our planet, but the damage probably wasn’t as visible as it is now. Our generation can’t take these liberties with plastic anymore. The earth deteriorates rapidly and we are noticing it. We can’t continue this behaviour for the sake of our future, that of our children and that of the earth itself. People are finally realizing it: we have to do something.
Okay, let’s be optimistic about the future. I think Atmosaving will continue. Saving the dead fish in the oceans and the chopped down trees isn’t attainable anymore, but we will go all out to cease the damage the environment endures. Plastic-free supermarkets will be conventional in 15 years and to buy plastic in addition to a product shall be an exception. When you’ll notice a beverage can or a straw on the street, you’ll pick it up and put it in the right trashcan. That’s why everyone will always carry hand sanitizer!
Asiedu, K. G. (2018, April 27). How a Ghanaian entrepreneur uses recycled plastic to make cheaper roads and building blocks. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from QUARTZ Africa: https://qz.com/1263830/how-a-ghanaian-entrepreneur-uses-recycled-plastic-to-make-cheaper-roads-and-building-blocks/
British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]. (2017, April 25). Can plastic roads help save the planet? Retrieved May 13, 2018, from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-39693091/can-plastic-roads-help-save-the-planet
Bureau of Economic Analysis [BEA]. (2017, September 28). Selected Nipa Tables 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from BEA: https://bea.gov/scb/pdf/2017/10-October/1017-selected-nipa-tables.pdf
Geyer, Jambeck & Law. (2017, July 19). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from ScienceAdvances: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782
GumShoe Amsterdam. (2018, May 13). GUMSHOE. Retrieved 2018, from Gumshoe Amsterdam: http://www.gumshoe.amsterdam/
Hoornweg, Bhada-Tata & Kennedy. (2013). Nature 502. In P. B.-T. D. Hoornweg. Retrieved May 13, 2018
Iamstrawless. (n.d.). Iamstrawless. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Iamstrawless: https://www.iamstrawless.org/
Jambeck, et al. (2015, February 13). Plastic wasteinputs from land into the ocean. In R. G. Jenna R. Jambeck. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from WeDocs: https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/17969/Plastic_waste_inputs_from_land_into_the_ocean.pdf?sequence=1
Kras, J. (2014, July 15). In India verandert plastic afval in een snelweg. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Welingelichte Kringen: http://www.welingelichtekringen.nl/natuur-en-milieu/337537/in-india-maken-ze-snelwegen-van-plastic-afval.html
Lant, K. (2017, April 26). An Engineer Has Found a Way to Create Plastic Roads. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Futurism: https://futurism.com/an-engineer-has-found-a-way-to-create-plastic-roads/
Nwakanma, A. (2018, April 2). This Ghanaian invents an alternative way to build roads. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from TheNerve Africa: http://thenerveafrica.com/16410/ghanaian-invents-alternative-way-build-roads/
PlasticRoad. (n.d.). A revolution in building roads. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from PlasticRoad: https://www.plasticroad.eu/en/
PlasticWhale. (n.d.). PlasticWhale. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from PlasticWhale: https://plasticwhale.com/
Poole, S. (2018, March 31). Plogging: the fitness craze that’s sweeping the streets. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/31/plogging-steven-poole
Qureshi, W. (2018, May 10). European Commission proposes taxing non-recycled plastic packaging waste after Brexit. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Packaging News: https://www.packagingnews.co.uk/top-story/european-commission-proposes-taxing-non-recycled-plastic-packaging-waste-brexit-10-05-2018
Seleky, E. (2018, February 28). Amsterdam zet als eerste ter wereld stappen richting plasticvrije supermarkt . Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Plastic Soup Foundation: https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/2018/02/amsterdam-zet-als-eerste-wereld-stappen-richting-plasticvrije-supermarkt/
Statista . (2015, November ). Revenue of the chewing gum market worldwide from 2014 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars). Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Statista : https://www.statista.com/statistics/627860/global-chewing-gum-market-revenue/
Statistic Brain Research Institute [SBRI]. (2018, February 25). Littering Statistics. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from Statistic Brain: https://www.statisticbrain.com/littering-statistics/
Strick. (2017). Strick Amsterdam. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Strick Amsterdam: http://strickamsterdam.nl/en/#missie
Taylor, M. (2018, February 28). World’s first plastic-free aisle opens in Netherlands supermarket. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/28/worlds-first-plastic-free-aisle-opens-in-netherlands-supermarket
Thompson, R. C. (2009 ). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences . In R. C. Thompson, Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends (pp. 2153-2166).
Thuy Ong. (2018, April 24). These sneakers are made from recycled chewing gum. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/24/17274414/sneakers-chewing-gum-tec-amsterdam-gum-drop-explicit-wear
World Economic Forum [WEF]. (2018, March 29). On the road to a cleaner environment. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Twitter: https://twitter.com/wef/status/979337783125991424
Bonazzi, D. (sd). Stop Climate Change . Opgehaald van http://www.davidebonazzi.com/portfolio.html
Nature blaze. (sd).