Last Drops

Two Unexpected Ways
to Recycle Plastic Bottles

At an average of almost three billion tons discarded every year, it’s about time we find alternatives for recycling plastic bottles.
You already know that the business of recycling is big worldwide, and finding other uses for discarded plastic can actually boost the bottom line of many a corporation.
Take energy concern Vadxx, for example, which found a way of reverting non-recyclable plastics back to a low-sulfur content crude oil.
Scraps, non-metal parts of cars and even your copious e-waste, are all prime materials for Vadxx’s reactors. It may sound like another oil producer’s gimmick, but anything that has the potential to shrink landfills has our vote.
Of course, it may take a while. What started as a cheap and profitable idea, quickly became a potential tool for the demise of our environment. Plastic is simply everywhere and to get rid of it will take as much effort as to stop using carbon fuels as source of energy.
We know, a laughable idea for all powers that be. But with the obvious climate change we’ve been witnessing, its time may be nearer than anyone expects.
The case for bottled water, for example, is typical. It’s found everywhere but where it’s needed the most: impoverished communities lacking running water and basic sanitation.
Which doesn’t mean that such communities are not affected by the pollution the containers cause to their way of life, environment, and precious water sources.

We’re all affected by contamination of our drinking water, though, and in a planetary scale, arsenic is one of its biggest causes.
It’s a surprising twist, then, that a new research has developed a way of extracting arsenic out of the water by adding chopped up bits of plastic coated with cysteine (an amino acid found in dietary supplements). The arsenic binds with the plastic and is easily removed.
Traditionally, getting this poison out of the water is expensive, even more in places like Bangladesh or Nepal, where it’s abundant. But plastic is as ubiquitous in underdeveloped nations as it is anywhere else, so it wouldn’t take much to put the new technique to work.
Surfing the Internet for examples of plastic recycling is a good way to gauge how human ingenuity is often able to overcome adversity and can teach us a thing or two about how to preserve the environment in the process.
Perhaps there’s no better example than Richie Sowa, who built a whole island in 1998, from over a quarter-million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island had a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches.
After a hurricane destroyed it a few years back, guess what Sowa decided to do: build another one even bigger, better and, listen to this, capable of floating out to the sea and take him to places.
It’d be the ultimate slap back at the Great Garbage Patch, that gigantic landfill of discarded plastic that’s been floating the Pacific Ocean for years, as a shameful testimony to all that’s wrong with our civilization.
There are certainly many other visionaries or only practical people, who may have started by building their own private island, like Sowa, and wound up developing ways of making things better for everybody else.
In any case, we can all start something if we don’t ever buy another plastic container for the rest of our lives. There are already too many of them laying around.
In fact, there’s a bigger chance that the bottle someone is buying right now, somewhere around the world, will someday be found on the Garbage Patch, than it’ll serve any purpose for the good people of Bangladesh or Nepal.

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