Around 350 tonnes of plastic are produced every year, and more than half of this ends up in the ocean or in the landfill, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). As well as plastic from bottles, packaging or bags, microparticles found in cosmetics, detergents and clothes also end up in the waterways. In the EU alone, 17 tonnes of microparticles are produced annually.
To find durable solutions to this issue, many companies globally have committed to replacing plastic, in particular in packaging, and sourcing alternative materials, such as paper. Efforts are being made worldwide to ban such prolific use of plastic, in particular single use plastics, or reduce it. To illustrate, Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, has vowed to remove all plastic used in ready-meals trays, lids, straws and loose fruit bags for its own label products. This move alone aims to remove 1 billion pieces of plastic from its supply chain by the end of 2020 as the supermarket will switch to paper alternatives instead.
Paper is often lauded as a more sustainable alternative to plastic. Nevertheless, it’s not entirely sustainable. It is commonly believed that paper is more biodegradable and easily recycled. However, when it reaches landfill its degradation rate slows. Furthermore, paper pulp is often treated with chlorine, which adds pollution to the environment. Lastly, an increase in demand for paper packaging impacts further on deforestation, which in turn causes further damage to our ecosystems and lowers the quality of the air we breathe.
Plastic, on the other hand, benefits from being significantly lighter, a property which makes it more efficient for containing and packaging food and other non-perishable products. However, not all types of plastic are recyclable. And, when instead of being recycled, it goes to landfill, it remains for hundreds of years until it degrades.
UK-based Teysha Technologies has developed a sustainable and cost-efficient bio-polymer that can provide a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to conventional plastics or paper packaging. Instead of using a single polymer system, the company’s technology incorporates a polycarbonate platform that enables the company to create a variety of polymers with differing tensile strength and protective properties. This opens up significant potential for Teysha’s material to be specifically tuned to create a variety of end products. Moreover, it is suitable for processing on existing production lines, so does not require big capital investment in new infrastructure.
While reducing and recycling packaging is essential, we should also rethink our understanding of plastic and its potential. It’s companies like Teysha Technologies who are pointing the way when it comes to the plastic dilemma. It is clear that the environmental disaster caused by plastic pollution cannot be reversed overnight. However, its consequences can be mitigated, and wiser strategies advanced to fully resolve the wrapping debate.