Latin American entrepreneurs develop 6 new ways to avoid contamination by disposable materials
The use and waste of disposable products has become one of the biggest problems to which the current society is facing, since it causes a great degree of contamination in diverse ecosystems of the planet. In addition, as the name says, these are products that are used only a couple of times before being discarded.
Leer en español: Latinoamericanos contra los productos desechables
One of the ways to combat the pollution generated by these products is recycling. However, there are some disposable products made with materials, such as polystyrene, which are difficult to recycle and can also take up to hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Faced with this alarming situation in Latin America have emerged companies seeking to create new ways to eliminate the use of these products, or improve the conditions of their recycling.
1. Cigarette butts
The first of these is Ecofilter, a Mexican biotechnology company that sells cigar butts to convert them into various biodegradable products. This project led by Paola Alejandra Garro Almendar and Leopoldo Benítez, emerged six years ago, after the publication of Benítez's thesis.
In his undergraduate work, Benítez set the goal of reducing the waste of cigarette butts and giving them a second life as other products that do not have a negative effect on the environment, since it is a very harmful product that takes between 10 and 12 years to degrade.
The process to give cigarette butts a second air is to collect them with the proper precaution, since the butts are designed to retain the carcinogenic substances of the cigarette. Afterwards, the butts must undergo a biotechnological process where they place an enzyme in the cigarette butts that decompose them and purify them within a period of fifteen days.
After this process that generates a mass very similar to cotton, the material is washed and transformed into various products such as pots, dishes and even books, which can be degraded easily. The use of this material replaces the use of tree cellulose, so it would also help to stop excessive felling.
Paola mentions that they plan to process around two million four hundred thousand butts, which means avoiding the felling of three thousand ninety-four trees a year and the maintenance of three hundred and eighty-one million liters of clean water.
2. Beyond eating avocado
While Ecofilter finds the virtues of a vice, the company Biofase, also Mexican, finds solutions to contamination in a well-loved and nutritious food, the avocado.
Scott Munguia, the creator of this company, discovered that in the seed of the avocado there is a biopolymer that can be extracted and turned into bioplastic resins that, as you can guess by the name, are very similar to the plastic that we use every day.
According to the Biofase website, they can be processed with all conventional methods for molding plastic and can replace certain applications of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.
The main differences between bioplastic and plastic are that the first comes from plant sources and is also biodegradable, because any utensil created with it can be buried in the earth to rejoin the environment in the form of nutrients, having a similar life cycle to other organic elements.
Biofase started its life as a company dedicated to the distribution and manufacture of this material, but from 2016 with the aim of achieving greater recognition of the company, a new plant was opened to manufacture cutlery and straws with the name of the brand. It is also important to mention that the manufacture of these products produces less pollution than normal plastic.
3. Plastic bottles for coupons
While this is happening in Mexico, in Colombia, a new initiative with the name of Ecobot encourages the inhabitants of the country to recycle. The Ecobot is a plastic bottle collector machine that works like a reverse vending machine, that is, people put their plastic bottles on it and in exchange they receive discount coupons for various products. The operators of Ecobot ensure that the waste reaches the processing plants where they are transformed into textile fibers or sheets of PET.
4. Plastic clothes
As for textile fibers made from plastic, in Peru a new object is being created. It aims to help children in the high Andes area to take their things to schools and protect themselves from the rains: the poncho.
The poncho idea arises from an initiative proposed by the companies Pacific Insurance, San Luis Water, Wong and Metro, which in 2017 decided to give a new use to the plastic to use discarded bottles to create a backpack that also works as a poncho to protect children from the areas of Puno, Cusco and Arequipa; who often suffer from rain and cold weather.
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For the creation of each poncho, around eighty plastic bottles are needed. That is why these companies with the help of the Ministry of the Environment of Peru, have set up collection points in different parts of the country, where people can go to donate plastic bottles that they no longer need.
4. Reusable cups
In Chile, there is a company called My Glass and it wants to fight waste in massive events, like concerts, where a lot of waste is normally generated.
The solution proposed by My Glass is to offer biodegradable glasses to attendees of these massive events. Whoever decides to use the glass leaves a deposit in cash, this is returned when the glass returns or they can keep the glass and use it repeatedly. The returned glasses are washed and recycled for reuse. In addition, the company seeks to be more striking for event organizers by offering personalized glasses for the occasion.
5. Tires are raw material
In Ecuador, the company Ecocaucho wants to get rid of a larger disposable waste and in which we rarely think when we talk about this waste, the tires.
Ecocaucho takes the tires that people dispose of and uses them as raw material for the creation of different biodegradable materials based on recycled rubber, which can be used to create floors, carpets, road signs, and also new durable tires -whose manufacture is more environmental friendly-.
These projects seem a good and viable alternative to the problem of pollution. However, Scott Munguia, of the company Biofase, mentions that one of the challenges to implement them is that people still do not want to pay more money for these products, despite their benefits for the environment. People prefer to use the common plastic.
LatinAmerican Post | Alan Rosas González
Translataed from “Latinoamericanos contra los productos desechables”