After many of the discussions the past few weeks regarding the life of plastics, especially in conjunction to the effects of coronavirus, our group talked about many possible solutions for the future for plastic solutions, beyond minimizing consumerism.
One of the first examples we found was of recycling in other places that are more efficient and conscious regarding the process. We discovered a city in Japan that sorted their trash into as many as 45 categories to maximize their productivity, and the responsibility of recycling was left up to the individual. The most interesting part of this idea was that the change in the recycling was not something that stemmed from a specific process or system, but a change to the social consciousness around a united and shared responsibility.
In regards to the latest research into plastic reduction methods, we found research done by Stanford around plastic-eating worms that are able to digest styrofoam. In the lab, 100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam – about the weight of a small pill – per day. The worms converted about half of the Styrofoam into carbon dioxide, as they would with any food source.
In regards to the world of plastic alternatives and art, I had to bring up one of my favorite artists: Neri Oxman, a professor for the MIT Media Lab, who has been working on 3d printed organic plastics that can decompose. Mediated Matter calls this process “environmental programming,” and the group foresees a future where the properties of built structures can be modified relative to seasons to encourage or inhibit decay. What is particularly interesting, but perhaps left understated by Mediated Matter, is that this system is scalable. In theory, an entrepreneur with software, a 3D printer, and the biological materials could create biodegradable products almost as easily as a corporation with mass production capabilities–financing and marketing considerations notwithstanding. And that wouldn’t just be great for the environment, but a win for independent businesses.