How we have chosen the materials to work with ?
We would like to introduce the materials that our products are created from, and explain why they are important alternative materials, as either naturally occurring and widely available material sources, or more sustainable options for plastic, such as bioplastics.
Naturally occurring materials:
Bamboo: The majority of our products are made out of bamboo. Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant. Bamboo is often thought of as a tree, but it’s actually a plant - and it releases up to 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than a similarly sized tree. It also grows much faster than trees - up to one meter a day, or three times faster than a tree. This means that one hectare of bamboo can be used to produce the same amount of products than twenty hectares of forest. There are many other benefits of bamboo, and while not all bamboo products are created equally, bamboo in its rawest, natural forms - essentially, bamboo that still looks like bamboo - are the most sustainable choices for products that would otherwise be made out of plastic, wood, or paper.
Byproducts, such as bagasse and wheat straw: We also feature products that are made from byproducts that would otherwise go to the waste. For example, our takeaway containers are made from 100% organic and biodegradable bagasse pulp that is produced from sugarcane waste. Wheat straw is also another agricultural by-product that is not used as industrial raw material on a significant scale. Beeswax is another byproduct of honey production, and is an entirely naturally occurring material. It is used for a number of purposes, and is excellent as reusable food wrap, including for cheese.
PLA: Another material that we use is PLA, a new bioplastic that can biodegrade in 3 years in a landfill, unlike normal plastic that degrades in 100 to 1000 years.The raw material of PLA is mainly made of natural macromolecule (such as cornstarch, cellulose, chitin) or agricultural by-products through microbial fermentation to synthesize biodegradable macromolecule. The bags and film produced by this material can be naturally decomposed into common natural forms such as carbon dioxide and water under the action of microorganisms (garbage dump or various worms in soil, etc.)
PBAT: PBATis made of compounds (starch, PLA) and has a biobased carbon content of up to > 30%. It is typically used to create flexible film for packaging, such as compostable shopping bags.
Why single-use plastic is such a pervasive problem and recycling is not the solution?
Single-use packaging and product waste is one of the most pervasive and rapidly growing issues facing our planet today. We live in a world where we consume an increasing amount and variety of disposable items, a very small percentage of which is recycled; roughly a quarter of all waste produced in a year ends up in our oceans, and most of the rest is burned, buried or littered. This “take - make - waste” philosophy of consumption has taken over our daily lives because it gives us unparalleled convenience at an affordable price.
Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If that seems like an incomprehensible quantity, it is. Even the scientists who set out to conduct the world’s first tally of how much plastic has been produced, discarded, burned or put in landfills, were horrified by the sheer size of the numbers.
Globally, a whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled. All of this plastic waste ends in landfills or worse, incinerated or in our water supply.
Recycling is championed as the strategy to enable a cleaner, healthier world by those businesses that have profited the most from the extractive, take-make-waste economy. In reality, it is merely a cover to continue business as usual. For example, recycling virtually doesn’t exist in Hong Kong - any collected recyclable material in this city is collected for exporting, which is increasingly unsustainable.
China, Malaysia and the Philippines’s recent ban on foreign waste imports places the unsustainability of our material management markets front and center.
Recycling cannot work if it is more profitable to produce goods from virgin materials than recycled ones. Governments can correct this by either imposing tax on production and consumption of virgin materials or subsidise recycled materials to make it cheaper than virgin materials.
Where recycling is conducted, the aggregation, separation and reconstruction of materials and products is primarily done using low-cost labor in China and Southeast Asia. This workforce is consistently exposed to dangerous working conditions and toxic chemicals for minimal pay.The injustices of the exploitative labor system that powers the global waste and recycling system are rarely, if ever, factored into the equation.
What are the best solutions?
Products should be designed for longevity, advanced disassembly and reuse rather than obsolescence. Complementary policies need to facilitate and protect a consumers’ right to repair while ensuring producers take responsibility for the full life cycle of their products.
Product manufacturers can follow IDEO’s Circular Design Guide and MBDC’s Cradle-to-Cradle protocol for sustainable guidelines. Several organizations are putting these ideas into practice including Metabolic, Fashion for Good and ReFED. Technologies such as Algramo, Trove, Truman’s and Loop can help consumers participate in this journey as well.
Recycling materials that are inherently toxic means that we’re giving dangerous substances another chance to poison the environment and our bodies. We must make products from naturally sourced biodegradable materials, non-hazardous chemicals, and restorative manufacturing processes. Organizations such as GC3, Materiom, SaferMade and The Biomimicry Institute are leading this transition into green chemistry.
How are other countries reducing the consumption of plastic?
Governments around the world, often pressured by their citizens and environmental groups, are attacking the root of the problem: mass plastic consumption. Either through plastic bans and taxes that range from a few single-use plastics to all, these governments are wielding policy change to reduce plastic consumption and incentivize alternatives to single-use plastics. Here are some examples of how different countries have reduced their populations’ use of plastic.
Over 15 African countries have either banned or taxed the use of plastic shopping bags since the early 2000s, placing them ahead of ‘developed’ countries such as the US, France, and others. Rwanda, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Kenya, Mauritania, South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ethiopia, and Malawi have all moved to limit single-use plastics in some ways, with some of these countries banning all single-use plastics and even importation of single-use plastics. Residents of these countries have created shopping bags made from paper, cloth, jute, and raffia, that have turned out to be excellent ‘earth-friendly’ alternatives.
Before the ban, which was signed into law on July 1, 2016, Morocco used 3 billion plastic bags every year — an incredible 900 bags per person every year. It made it the second largest plastic bag consumer in the world after the US. But the landmark bill was launched to ban the production, import, sale, and distribution of all plastic bags across the country.
Antigua and Barbuda banned single-use plastic bags in 2016 making it the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to do so. The island nation soon followed this measure with additional bans on plastic utensils and styrofoam.
In late 2017, the Chinese government moved to ban the import of single-use plastics for recycling in the country’s facilities. The recent policy change, although good for China, is not great for everyone else. New research estimates that because of the country’s refusal to take in more garbage, some 111 million tons of waste will have nowhere to go by 2030.This was a blow to the global recycling system and showcases how recycling is not the solution.
In February 2018, Taiwan announced one of the farthest-reaching bans on plastic in the world, restricting the use of single-use plastic bags, straws, utensils, and cups. The ban — which builds on existing regulations like a recycling programme, and extra charges for plastic bags — should be completely in force by 2030.
You can read more about plastic bans in different parts of the world here.
While policy change is important and certainly effective on a large scale, plastic bans alone are not the solution. As of 2019, 127 countries around the world regulate the use and consumption of plastic - but we are not seeing a significant reduction in waste nor pollution. Here’s why:
1) Most countries fail to regulate plastic through its lifecycle.
2) Countries favor partial bans over full bans.
3) Virtually no countries restrict plastic bag manufacturing/production.
4) Exemptions are numerous.
5) Incentives are not offered for alternatives to single-use plastics.