The RESTCo Vision of Resolving Persistent Plastic Pollution
By now, presuming you have read through the other pages on our site related to
plastic pollution problems and solutions, you have likely concluded we have put
some real thought and effort into the topic. The problems are massive and
ubiquitous; the plastics are pervasive and persistent. They are attractive to
fish and other wildlife because they imitate food in some respects. Plastics
contain toxins and carcinogens. They can't be digested, so if they can't be passed
through the digestive tract, they remain with the creature that ate them until death.
Microplastics and nanoplastics - whether put into the environment in that form or
resulting from flaking and breaking from larger plastic pieces are likely even
a greater danger to humans as we will consume them without noticing, and they may
be able to move into our bloodstream and organs. Somehow, loading up with
nano-carcinogens and parking them in our organs seems like a poor idea to me.
We do need to reduce the amount of plastic going into the wild today and in the
future. We fully support efforts to do that. In fact, we have some ideas as to
how to further reduce the amount of
micro- and nano-plastics going into the environment now which we think deserve
Step 1: Get the Plastic Out of the Wild Environment
Seriously, we have given plastic pollution a 70-year head-start; isn't it time
we started doing something about the garbage we have already dumped into nature?
After several years of research and pitching parts of the solution to various
environmental organizations, governments and major plastic pollution producers, in
2014/5 RESTCo produced a 3-pager summary of some technologies which could address plastic pollution
from the macro scale to the nano scale, and shared it widely.
(2017 revision). Not a single government,
environmental organization or company responded. That is a resounding 100% cross-sector
agreement to ignore the problem as of the end of 2017.
So, we know we're on our own if we want to actually clean up the existing plastic pollution mess.
Step 2: Sort out the mixed plastic
There's some RESTCo 'secret sauce' in this step, but the premise is simple. Different
plastics have different physical properties, and those properties can be used to separate
different types, and incoming form factors can be recognized to help with pre-sorting.
Material which can't be recycled can be processed to make fuel for process heating (e.g.
melting plastic for pouring into molds or softening for extrusion).
Step 3: Create value from the waste stream
Where we can process the recovered plastic to a purity level which is saleable in
the existing market for post-consumer plastic waste, we would simply package and sell
into that market. For the remaining material which has some mixed material, we can use
that to produce some specific products for sale (see below). What remains can be
transformed into liquid hydrocarbons and solid fuel pellets for process heat.