Owing to modern methodologies there are various ways to reuse and recycle plastics. Plastics can be used as inks for modern 3-d printers to create new products but the problem is that after every use the quality gets reduced and the product may end up more brittle. Although a great idea that would contribute to savings, the plastic still remains.
Another methodology, I considered as an option was depolymerisation of dead plastic into hydrocarbons such as petrol, diesel and high-speed diesel. But this is again creating fuel that will be burned.
Artificial skin is the new talk of the town where an artificial skin can be created using plastics that would selfheal at room temperatures. A good idea would be packing sachet with the material that can be used as artificial skin.
But why do we need plastics after all when we have a solution. I call this solution as Indian milkman solution.Before the dairy as an industry took over, the milk man in India used to supply milk door to door. Yes, there was no carton or plastic used.
Taking this as an example, I propose an idea to change the delivery model and in current age we definitely have all the resources to eliminate plastic altogether. The idea also throws some light on reimagine the package area.
I propose to implement the solutions in three steps. Each step has the potential to contribute significantly if implemented in efficient manner. They are-
1)Manufacturing of Packaging materials-The first and foremost step should be to make changes in the manufacturing of packaging materials. Right from the start focus should be on how to make the packaging materials eco-friendly.In current times, we have various technologies and findings that can make conventional packaging materials 100% biodegradable. Some of them are
-Adding pro-degradant concentrates to the plastic can increase its biodegradable properties to 100 %within weeks.
-A synthetic polyester such as polycaprolactone can be used as it completely degrades after six weeks ofcomposting.
-PLA (Polylactic Acid) is another synthetic polyester made from corn that can be used for packaging foods. PLA,when mixed with starch increases its biodegradability and reduces its cost.
-Packaging materials made of bamboo are rapidly gaining pace. It provides the best solution to tackle plastic problem. Small boxes, utensils and even toothbrushes made up of bamboo are readily being used in many places. Moreover Dell uses bamboo packaging to deliver its products. So definitely there is huge scope in this area.
2)At the product manufacturing centres-If manufacturers are really concerned about making changes, it is them who needs to take the necessary steps in the right direction. At manufacturing plants where products are manufactured and packaged, a research team should focus on innovative ways to pack the finished products in innovative ways. Some of the ideas that come in to my mind are-
-If a medicine can been capsulated in edible material then why not small candies. In fact, a group in UK have created a material that can encapsulate water which has the potential to eliminate plastic bottles. This would be extremely useful in case of delivering packets of water during disaster relief.
-The other materials that can replace plastics can be a wheat flour that hardens when left to dry, orangepeels that harden on drying. In fact, there are several companies already making plastics out of wheat, maize and even potatoes.
-A bottle made of earth also keeps the water cool and enriches it with natural minerals. But again, small bottles used in flights and trains can be made of material that can be used for artificial skin industry. Glass made of sand definitely is one of the materials that can used as substitute for plastic bottles.
-Silk screen printed wrappers are sprouting in various silk producing states in India, which is an excellent way to get rid of those plastic wrappers. More over the screens are reusable and can operate on return and get incentives model where a customer returns the wrapper after use and gets some incentives.
3)Delivering to the Consumer/Customer-Lastly it is us the consumers of the products who need to be conscious about the environment, about our future. In marketing terms, it is said that customer is God and hence if the collective conscious of the customer rises and a step is taken forward,definitely producers will change the ways the things are being done. Some ofthe methods of product delivery to the customers are-
-Customers should bring acollector bin with themselves and those bins would be made of wood that cangrow into a plant/tree when thrown carelessly on the soil. If liquid wood is used they can be recycled completely. The bins would have measurements marked onit and an automated machine would fill the bin as per requirements. e.g. To get 500 ml of shampoo, I would enter 500 ml on the machine and the machine wouldfetch the required quantity and fill the bin. Or even if we want to buy products on daily basis say 10 ml of shampoo, we can get small light weight wooden bins to buy them or bins made of rice husks that can be planted. Even small bins made of soil can be used which would revive the pottery industry as well. Not long ago, in Asia, people tea was delivered in kullhad (a cup made ofmud to drink tea). There was not any plastic cup to drink tea.
-Bags made of paper are widely being used these days. For slightly heavy materials such as 1 kg of flour,customers should get bags made up of wood. Not long time ago we used bags made up of cloths to get the refined wheat flour.
-Giving a small discount would bea great way to makes the customers conscious about these things.
-A much better and feasible thingto do is ask the consumer to return the unused plastic to the vendor to avail discounts. The vendor will immediately segregate the plastics and put into respective bins. This method must be implemented with immediate effect.
The best way would be to explain with an example. Let’s say there is a factory that produces products such as candies, shampoos or even mineral water. An idea way would be that they pack these materials into biodegradable wrappers or packaging materials mentioned above and send these to distribution centres. From the distribution centres customers procure these products in the biodegradable bags and thus earning a small token of appreciation/discount.
So, we have a blueprint where wecan revitalize old ideas and blend those with modern plastic technology and puta step forward in right direction.