Globe covered with plastic

 

With the numerous environmental, climate and health hazards that fossil fuel based energy and materials bring to our societies, we are now facing times that challenge the whole humanity to change the way we produce and consume.  Materials should eventually be based on renewable sources, waste should be minimized and recycling of products and materials maximized.  This is a major challenge, but a lot of good stuff is happening already, thousands of companies have realised that the new era of materials brings enormous business opportunities for innovative players.   Solar is getting cheaper and investments already outrun fossil options in some countries, electric cars are coming and a lot of research is focusing to replace petrochemical materials with renewable options.

 

We have all heard that oceans are facing a growing hazard from continuously increasing amount of plastic waste.  According to United Nations, almost 13 million metric tons of plastic is dumped annually into oceans , a full load of truck every minute.  The scientists tell us that you can find microplastic in the air that we breath, the tap water that we drink, the sea salt in our food, the beer we consume, and of course in our body too.   The microplastics are very small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long and they together with larges pieces of plastic waste can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.  Dead whales and birds with stomach full of various plastics have been found already for some time.   What the consumption of microplastics means to our health, we do not know.  It is challenging for the science to find out, because people who have not consumed microplastics are hard to find. 

 

”Life is plastic, it’s fantastic”, was sung by a Danish-Norwegian pop-band Aqua in its world famous song called Barbie Girl in 1997.  At that time the plastics had conquered the globe for some decades already, but the production volumes were not peaked, this was just the prelude.  Half of the total volume of plastics produced have been manufactured during the last thirteen years!  The mass production of plastics started in the fifties and we have produced over 8 billion metric tons (8 000 000 000 000 kg) of plastics so far.  This amount weighs as much as 25 000 Empire State Buildings!  And none of this mass is biodegradable or compostable, it still exists somewhere, or rather everywhere. 

 

However, more and more people realize that they need to change their way of consumption and as soon as novel concepts, such as Cuantec´s, are ready they will choose the better option.  The challenge though, for novel products is that you need to make them a lot better or a bit better and cheaper than current options.  This is how the market works and for success you really need to be innovative.

Dr Anu Harkki