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Exploring Innovative Solutions to Plastic Recycling

The SSC Team January 3, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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A new year is around the corner, and it’s important to make the time to take stock of sustainable efforts that are working, as well as those that can be improved. Without much effort, it is clear that we need to continue making global changes to reduce the world’s plastic obsession and subsequent clogging up of our streams, lakes, and oceans with the unrecycled waste.

 

According to Euromonitor, in 2016 about 480 billion drinks in plastic containers were sold but fewer than half of the containers were collected for recycling. Where did more than 240 billion bottles end up? In landfills, being burned for energy, and being dropped when the user was done with them – ending up making their way to the watershed.

 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, of all the plastic made in the U.S. in 2015, less than 10% made it to a recycling center.

 

Clearly we need solutions.

 

While the idea of embracing an alternate substance for single serving use items can be appealing, it can also be cost prohibitive. We need a multi-faceted approach to disposable plastic waste reduction that might include:

 

·       Reducing single use plastic consumption as much as possible. Think straws, bags and to-go food containers – they gotta go. Paper, reusable container incentives, and simply figuring out a new way to tote things around can’t be that hard, albeit inconvenient at times.

·       Incentive Reverse Vending. Like a traditional bottle deposit, people return plastic bottles into a machine in exchange for things like cash refunds, donations to charity, discounted tickets for movies, paid phone cards, etc.

·      Plastic as Currency. Another interesting approach is The Plastic Bank. The Plastic Bank’s founder, David Katz said, “We have built out the largest chain of stores in the world for the ultra-poor, where everything in the store is available to be purchased using plastic garbage. Most proudly, we offer school tuition, medical insurance, Wi-Fi, power, sustainable cooking fuel, high-efficiency stoves and everything else the world needs and can't afford.” While most efforts are focused on getting plastic out of the ocean, Katz hopes that The Plastic Bank will encourage people to keep their plastic waste from going in the ocean in the first place. How does it work? People go door-to-door or through the streets collecting plastic, which they then bring to a Bank locations, where it's weighed and checked for quality, then the value of the plastic is transferred into a personal online account. Plastic becomes money. No one wants to throw money away.

What other innovative plastic reuse and recycling ideas have floated across your Twitter feed? Share them in the comments!

Sustainability Explained with Simple Natural Science

The SSC Team December 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Sometimes less is more, so we offer this brief video with a focus on explaining sustainability using simple natural science. Do you need a new way to make sustainability make sense to your clients? Try showing them this video by Alexandre Magnin, which also discusses the four root causes of unsustainability.

TED Talk Johan Rockström: 5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world

The SSC Team December 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Got 12 minutes? Of course you do! Spend it with sustainability expert Johan Rockström as he explains the path for building a robust future without wrecking the planet. In his talk, he debuts the Earth3 model — a methodology bringing together the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the nine planetary boundaries, beyond which earth's vital systems could become unstable. Rockström examines five transformational policies that may provide inclusive and prosperous world development, while assisting the earth in a move toward being more stable and resilient.

TED Talk Angel Hsu: How China is (and isn’t) fighting pollution and climate change

The SSC Team November 15, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Spend 12 minutes with data scientist, Angel Hsu, and learn about how China, the most populous country on earth (and the world's biggest polluter) is now one of its largest producers of clean energy. Which way will China go in the future and how will it affect the global environment? Hsu explores the ways that China is creating a future based on alternative energy while also facing up to the environmental catastrophe it created when it rapidly industrialized.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from October 2018

The SSC Team November 1, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We try to post a new blog at least once a week, just to share our insights into the world of sustainability strategy and what it takes to be a sustainability consultant or professional today. Here are our most-read posts from October.

 

Anyone can become a trash talker and help reduce waste. Are you next?

 

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

 

What's Next for the Recycling Industry

 

 

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Is Climate Change Human Made? (Vostock research)

The SSC Team October 11, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Through easy to understand illustrations, Alexandre Magnin explains why global atmospheric temperature increases are due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane (aka human made). He based this on the Vostok ice core research, published in 1999, as well as more recent research published by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was published in 2013. Check it out!

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/is-climate-change-human-made-vostok-ice-core/

TED Talk: A Wide-Angle View of the Fragile Earth

The SSC Team September 13, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Yann Arthus-Bertrand combines three of his projects that focus on humanity and our habitat — stunning aerial photographs from "The Earth From Above," personal interviews from around the globe featured in the web project "6 billion Others," and video footage from "Home” that documents human impact on the environment — in this highly visual overview of our earth.

TED Talk Kamal Meattle: How to Grow Fresh Air

The SSC Team August 16, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

From 2009, Kamal Meattle’s TED Talk is focused on how three common houseplants used in specific spots within a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air. With the EPA lifting strict limits on air emissions, this creative thinking toward have fresh air to breath is more necessary than ever. Meattle’s New Delhi office is filled with air-filtering plants and sustainable architecture, making it a model green business. 

TED Talk: To Eliminate Waste, We Need to Rediscover Thrift

The SSC Team July 19, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Andrew Dent is hitting all the right notes in this talk about reducing our waste creation. Dent believes there should be no such thing as throwing things away because no matter what it is — used take out containers, broken toys or an old pair of undies — it inevitably ends up in a landfill if we dump it. It’s time to get smarter about the way we make, and remake, products. Dent’s focus is centered on the idea of thrifting, basically avoiding the purchase of anything new. His talk also explores advances in material science, like electronics made of nanocellulose and enzymes, which can help make plastic infinitely recyclable.

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

The SSC Team June 28, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While we have been recycling certain products for a long time, there have been some pretty amazing innovatinos when it comes to building products on the market. These new materials are taking the idea of a sustainable approach to building to a whole new level. Take for example the creation of luxury building materials from waste. One truly great feature of this upcycling trend is that the new materials are being developed by designers who will use them, which means that they are actually attractive as well as useful.

 

These new materials are being used as substitutes for conventional woods, plastics and stone, and often come in sheet or tile form that are ready to be cut, shaped and manipulated by architects and designers.

 

Really, a Danish company at the forefront of this movement is focused on taking used textiles and transforming them into a sheet material similar to plywood.

 

In fact, companies around the world are coming up with some pretty clever new building materials turning items as basic as bottles and as strange as dirty diapers and sanitary products into materials that can be used for construction.

 

When it comes to embracing sustainable living, those are thinking well outside the box and turning products — like the notoriously hard to recycle plastic grocery bags — into building materials are making incredible strides.  In Building with Waste, which compiles these unique new materials, the authors speculate that, in future, we could end up re-using pretty much everything. This would be pretty darn helpful since we are on track to double municipal waste output by 2025. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.

 

And it isn’t just building materials, there are products being made with carbon dioxide. Collecting CO2 from the world’s smokestacks is hard, but once it has been collected what can be done with the carbon? To address this problem, people have invented technologies that convert captured CO2 into new products — crazy in a great way, right?

 

Solutions so far have included a lot of creative ideas such as converting carbon dioxide into carbon fibers which can be used as lighter-weight alternative to metal to make products like wind turbine blades, race cars, airplanes and bicycles. A company in Calgary is combining CO2 with waste products, such as fly ash left over from burning coal or petroleum coke, to create nanoparticles that can be used as additives for concrete, plastic and coatings to enhance performance and increase efficiency.

 

These innovations and more prove that many in this world are working toward a more sustainable future. We must continue to find creative solutions for reducing waste in order to take care of our most precious resource — the earth.