95 percent of our plastic is made from petroleum. We must think carefully about which raw material will take over for the oil, says the entrepreneur Guy Maurice, who wants to make plastic from seaweed and kelp.
Plastic is one of the building blocks of modern society. The world produces 275 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, and much of this plastic spills into our nature.
Water samples show that even the rain contains plastic fibers .
Entrepreneur Guy Maurice wants to do something about it. The engineer specializes in environmental engineering and has his background from the waste industry. He founded the company B'zeos to help solve the plastic problem.
There is a lot that does not work with the international system for recycling, he says.
- Many countries outside the EU do not recycle plastic, and many end up in large landfills. Some of the landfills have little security, and I have several times seen people set fire to these to pick up metals, he says.
European countries are unfortunately not much better, and have for many years sent their plastic waste to countries such as China and Turkey. The EU now exports 173 times more plastic waste to Turkey compared to 2004, according to a new report . We simply do not have the capacity to take care of all the plastic ourselves.
And what happens to plastic in Turkey? According to 2015 figures from the OECD , the country recycles only one percent of its own waste . The rest is sent to huge rubbish heaps.
- When even western, developed countries are not able to get a good solution to this, what chance do poor developing countries have?
Guy Maurice is one of our talented speakers at the Waste Technology conference. Read more about the program here!
To avoid littering, a number of "green" and degradable plastic alternatives have been launched and put into use in recent years. Maurice believes that several of these alternatives are far from sustainable when we look at the entire life cycle from cradle to grave.
- We must not be blind to how environmentally friendly the product itself is. We must also look at production. Many of the plant-based plastics need a lot of fresh water and large areas of land to grow, which is at the expense of other important food production. We have to put everything into the calculation, he says.
If bioplastics are to take over from conventional plastics, which currently make up 95 per cent, huge areas of land must be set aside for plastic production, he points out.
Maurice believes this is unsustainable. He therefore develops plastic made from kelp through his company B'zeos. The company has offices in the Research Park in Oslo, and has already entered into an agreement with the food giant Nestlé. You can find the kelp plastic in Nestlé's European test stores as early as next year - if everything goes according to plan.
5 benefits of kelp plastic
Seaweed has a number of benefits, Maurice explains:
1) Seaweed forest grows faster than most land-based plants. In just three months, kelp can grow from one centimeter to two meters, completely without fertilizers and pesticides.
2) Seaweed is also positive for the greenhouse gas accounts. It uses more carbon dioxide than other plants to grow.
3) Seaweed also purifies the water in the local environment where it grows and creates ecosystems for life under water.
4) Seaweed grows in the sea and does not need to seize clean water and land.
5) Last but not least, kelp is degradable. It does not need to be recycled and can be thrown straight into the compost bin.
As an extra plus, some types of kelp plastic can also be eaten, says Maurice.
The Tekna conference Waste Technology focuses on the good technological solutions for dealing with the waste problems of the future.
Customers are putting pressure on the industry
The hope is that kelp will in the long run take over a fifth of plastic production. It will certainly take time, the engineer admits.
- It is important to have a good production model. Every time someone launches a "sustainable" solution, which is not really sustainable, it sets us back. People must be able to trust that our products are sustainable, says Maurice.
Currently, B'zeos does not grow its own kelp, but buys it from a manufacturer. Seaweed is also becoming very popular in other industries such as cosmetics and food. Maurice explains that the company wants to use leftover parts of the kelp to make plastic.
- Our goal is to only use the kelp parts that do not have much value otherwise, he says.
The founder believes that kelp plastic can take up the fight against cardboard and other types of bioplastic. Customers are increasingly demanding environmentally friendly packaging and putting the industry under pressure, he says.
There are probably not many ways to make plastic more sustainable either.
- Disposable packaging has probably come here to stay, says Maurice.
Interview with TEKNA - 13/08/2020