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The Future of Plastics

The Future of Plastics Is Our Choice to Make

Arthur Huang
Arthur Huang
Arthur Huang, CEO & Founder of Miniwiz, speaking at the 2018 Zero Waste Conference.

In a 1963 report, the editor of Modern Packaging magazine celebrated the rising ubiquity of single-use plastic and predicted that, “the future of plastics is in the trash can.” He was right: today, from the tallest mountain to the deepest ocean trench, plastic trash is everywhere.

In Canada, only about 10 percent of the plastic we use gets recycled — every year, three million tonnes are thrown away, representing $8 billion in squandered economic value, embedded energy, and resources. 

We’re all caught in a wasteful way of doing business that’s neither accidental nor the logical result of plastic itself, which is highly adaptable and reusable. And scientists are only starting to comprehend the staggering scope of microplastics pollution in the world’s oceans. 

Disposability was a choice, and now it’s time to make a different choice — as many already have. 

Take for example, Arthur Huang’s TRASHPRESSO, a portable, solar-powered recycling platform that turns plastic into building materials on the spot. Or Tom Szaky’s Loop, a shopping platform that makes brands responsible for retrieving, refilling, and redistributing their product packages. 

Plastic’s extraordinary physical properties give it huge potential in the circular economy.

Skylar Tibbits at the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, has an even more futuristic approach: his team invents technologies that may lead to products capable of repairing themselves. 

These three innovators are among the keynote speakers at the ninth annual Zero Waste Conference in Vancouver on October 30 and 31. Hosted by Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council, the conference features the people, ideas, and actions that are having the biggest impact as the world shifts to a circular economy. 

Plastic’s extraordinary physical properties give it huge potential in the circular economy, which focuses on maximizing the useful life and the reuse of existing materials rather than on exploiting natural resources, and the idea is catching on. 

Businesses big and small are transforming their supply chains to reduce waste, entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide services and products that don’t generate waste, and governments are exploring new policies that foster the development of a circular economy. 

“The plastic issue raises big questions about how we live our lives,” said Malcolm Brodie, Chair of the National Zero Waste Council. “The looming threats of climate change, microplastics, and resource scarcity are driving academics, activists, governments, and businesses to rethink business as usual and to embrace the enormous opportunities for innovation these challenges present.” 

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