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News Archive July 2019 – Environmental Progress News

May your July be Joyful!

It’s easy to point out what’s not working.

To find solutions requires conscious action, effort, and positive energy.

The world is facing a serious problem with plastic pollution.

How can we turn this pollution problem into plastic possibilities, opportunities, and global goodness?

Turn your obstacles into opportunities and your problems into possibilities.
~ Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Statistically Speaking

Southeast Asia has the greatest percentage in the world for plastic pollution, affecting the world’s water.

In 2015, primary plastics production was 407 million tonnes; around three-quarters (302 million tonnes) ended up as waste.

“Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.” 

There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.

What to do?

From our polluted oceans and rivers, how can we find a beacon of light in plastic pollution? What if we changed our perspective entirely. What if we looked at the plastic as a possibility and become fishermen of plastic seeing an opportunity to create roadways and build sustainable homes and economical employment equality. What if we made plastics into a possibility, not a problem?

So how do we become fishermen of plastic?

And if we are fishers of plastic, what do we do with the fish?

How can we use the plastic we catch to nurture the oceans and Mother Earth?

Can we restore and revitalize cultural traditions with – plastic…?


People around the world have already found answers, creatively dissolving obstacles and inspiring amazing solutions.  

Ocean Plastics to Gender Bending Highways

Fisherman in South India have created an opportunity to clean the mother sea and create something. A roadway!

Last summer, Mathias approached J. Mercykutty Amma, the state minister of fisheries, and a fellow Kollam native, for help. He asked “if we take it upon ourselves to collect plastic from the sea and bring it back to land, can you help us do something with it?”

She said sure, but she probably couldn’t make it happen on her own. So, about a month later, she roped in five other government agencies, including the department of civil engineers, who agreed to help build a recycling facility, and the department for women’s empowerment. That agency is tasked with improving employment opportunities for women, in an area where many fields, like fishing, had long been dominated by men. So the agency helped hire an all-female crew to work there.

For the past several months, a group of 30 women have been working full time to painstakingly wash and sort plastic that the fishermen collect. Most of it is too damaged and eroded to recycle in traditional ways. Instead, it’s shredded into a fine confetti and sold to local construction crews who use it to strengthen asphalt for paving roads.

The proceeds—along with government grant money—cover the women’s salaries, about 350 rupees ($5) per day. The system isn’t completely self sufficient, but it will be by next year, Mathias hopes.

“We’ve roped in so many groups, so quickly for this effort,” he says. But he’s proudest of the fact that “this comes from us, it comes from the fishermen.”

The concept is spreading around the world. Both Australia and the US are experimenting with using recycled plastic when building new roads.

Shedding light on the plastic situation to see the solution

While it may not be the most scalable solution, Litre of Light is doing something amazing with plastic bottles. They’ve figured out how to use plastic bottles to create light in villages without electricity. This genius idea is changing the lives of millions of people who no longer have to live in the dark. And it’s giving a second life to thousands of plastic bottles!

Through a network of partnerships around the world, Liter of Light volunteers teach marginalized communities how to use recycled plastic bottles and locally sourced materials to illuminate their homes, businesses, and streets.

Liter of Light has installed more than 350,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries and taught green skills to empower grassroots entrepreneurs at every stop.

Liter of Light’s open source technology has been recognized by the UN and adopted for use in some UNHCR camps. Liter of Light is the proud recipient of the 2016 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize, and a winner of the 2014-2015 World Habitat Award.

Plastic Neutral?

In a region where seas are awash with trash, East Timor is set to become the world’s first country to recycle all its plastic waste after it teamed up with Australian researchers on Friday to build a revolutionary recycling plant.

The $40-million plant will ensure that no plastic, once used in the Southeast Asian nation, would become waste, but would instead be turned into new products.

Dili said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia’s Mura Technology to establish a non-profit called RESPECT that will run the plastic recycling plant, expected to launch by the end of 2020.

“This is a small country where we can make a statement – making the whole country the first to be plastic neutral, in a region where there is the largest pollution of marine life,” said Thomas Maschmeyer, co-inventor of the recycling technology to be used in the new plant.

Opportunities at the Ocean Port!

Sky Ocean Ventures and National Geographic are in the midst of a Challenge. They have tapped into the entire world’s creativity and expertise, putting together the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge to source ideas from around the world about how to address plastic waste.

“We hope we can inspire people of diverse backgrounds to utilize their own resources, to try to really solve the problems they see and reach their own goals,” says Fred Michel, the head of Sky Ocean Ventures, an impact investment arm of the London-based Sky media company. “And maybe—we hope—they’ll come up with something amazing, something transformational.”

The challenge, announced last month, is split into three tracks, each designed to address a different part of the plastics pollution problem. Each track is eligible for prizes totaling up to $500,000 as well as the opportunity for further investments and business mentoring from Sky Ocean Ventures.

Innovators were able to submit their ideas until June 11. A team of judges selected by National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures will pick the best of the bunch by early July—up to 10 finalists per track—and those finalists will have until November to develop their ideas further. The winners will be announced in December of 2019.

The first challenge is a call to design better packaging—a fully biodegradable coffee cup, for instance; or a wrapper for energy bars that breaks down over time; or a “wild card” idea that addresses a different packaging problem. Teams can submit ideas for any of the three categories.

The second challenge asks for creative zero-waste business models. How, asks Craig, can businesses get their products to their customers with less—or no—plastic?

“The soda business is essentially a plastic bottle business,” she gives as an example. But is there a way to get customers the drinks they want—without the bottles getting in the way? Teams can submit ideas for how to either build better business models or to use technology solutions to get products to consumers without packaging waste.”

Affordable Housing: Recycled Plastic Bricks

Ten years ago when Colombian Fernando Llanos tried to build his own house in Cundinamarca, he realized that moving the materials from Bogota was going to be very difficult. He mulled the problem over and finally decided to build his house out of plastic. After a series of trials and errors, he ended up meeting architect Óscar Méndez, who had developed his thesis on the same subject. Together they founded the company Conceptos Plásticos (Plastic Concepts) in 2011.  

The innovative local company managed to patent its system of bricks and pillars made of recycled plastic, which is then put together like Lego pieces in a construction system that lets you build houses up to two stories high in five days.

The base material they work with is obtained from local recyclers and factories that discard tons of plastic daily. Using an extrusion process, the plastic is melted and emptied into a final mold, creating a three-kilo brick (6.6 lbs), similar to clay ones with the same dimensions.

When assembled under pressure, the bricks insulate heat and have additives that retard combustion. Additionally, they are thermoacoustic and earthquake-resistance is up to code for Colombia, taking into account the country’s high levels of seismic activity.

In their meteoric rise, a major milestone for this small company (with less than 15 employees) was the construction of a set of temporary shelters in Guapi (southwest of Colombia) for 42 families displaced by armed conflict. After winning the bid from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), they completed the project in 28 days thanks to the joint work of 15 people, while recycling more than 200 tons of plastic.

Open Source Resources

Many innovators share their plans for free as Open Source resources. Below are two easy to replicate systems that designers encourage the spread and use of their ideas.

Precious Plastics

Plastic bottle cap planter

Last month we shared a video about an innovative way to turn plastic bottle caps into beautiful new products.

Designs for building the equipment and tools needed to make your own business recycling plastic bottle caps are free, the innovators of this system encourage people all around the world to set up their own system and find creative uses for the “new” material that is made from the old bottle caps. You can find the plans on their website Precious Plastics.

Styrofoam bricks

Styrofoam bricks

Warm Heart has developed a simple, replicable system to convert styrofoam into a useful product, providing an opportunity for both men and women to build a sustainable business while helping clean up our environment through styrofoam recycling. At Warm Heart, we are experimenting with building an office with our styrofoam bricks.

It does not take much money to start-up, and the product has many possible uses. Watch our video to see how easy it is, and follow the step by step directions.

Warm Heart has recently developed a simple, DIY brick making machine that allows two people to make as many as 600 brick a day. They are happy to share photos. Warm Heart would also like you to know that an African partner is making pavers with cement and plastic bags that are strong and permanently lock up lots of bags.

Earth Friendly Products

BeEco – Eco-Friendly Produce Bags

Hopefully you are using reusable bags to cart your groceries home from the market. But what about produce bags? BeEco produces reusable produce bags, reduce your plastic use even further with these reusable produce bags!

Great idea!

Preserving Animals

by Feliz, age 9

Once a long time ago, there were many animals
Even one's we don't know
But now so many have died out
Why is it so

It's humans, that's what it is
Throwing trash and spilling oil without a care
No one bothers to respect them
How is that fair

Let's not forget, that they're used for food and clothes
Hunted to the point of extinction
Why can't we be kind
The problem is people have such a self-addiction

Everyday animals disappear
We need to come together and change our ways
If we choose to ignore this issue
They will all be gone

Warm Heart encourages everyone’s participation in the upcoming Global Climate Conference. This is how we can truly make a difference, through sharing knowledge and solutions covering all aspects of global warming impacts. 

Under Development

Plastic is a problem. So what do we do? We find solutions to replace inorganic plastic with an organic material that can serve the same purposes.

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