Fabric from plastic waste; backpacks out of ocean waste

WhatPackaging?’s weekly updates on news stories gearing toward a sustainable future.

17 Sep 2021 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Startup converts 1,000-kg plastic waste to fabric every day

Trash To Treasure is a company founded by 17-year-old Aditya Banger from Bhilwara in Rajasthan that turns plastic waste into fabric. Aditya, who hails from a family running a textile manufacturing business called Kanchan India, went on a trip to China with his uncle when he was in 10th standard. The trip’s purpose was to see and bring new fabric manufacturing techniques to India, and the trip did just that. There Aditya came across a unit that was converting massive amounts of waste into fabric that can churn clothes and wearables. He was fascinated with the idea and pitched it to his family as soon as he returned from China. His family supported the idea, and Aditya got his seed funding for his business from Kanchan India. His company currently produces fabric for the same. Aditya also collaborated with a foreign company to establish a manufacturing plant in Bhilwara. The company produces durable fabrics from PET-grade plastics and sells them further so that wearables and other products can be made. The waste is collected from local sources and households and is thoroughly cleaned to remove any adulterating substance. It is then chopped and melted into fine plastic filament, which is mixed with cotton to produce the fiber.

According to Aditya, since January 2021, the company has been helping eradicate almost 10,000 kilograms of plastic waste. Earlier, Aditya used to purchase the waste at Rs40 per kilogram, which was not very cost-effective. Now, the company has opened the portal to the general public who wish to submit plastic waste.

London startup is building urban backpacks out of ocean waste

The lab.inc backpacks are made from the stuff you throw away! The bag explores a sustainable approach to fashion with fabric that’s made from recycled ocean plastic as well as vegan leather made from banana plants. The backpack combines an approach to designing a backpack for an urban city-dweller, along with a focus on ensuring it’s not ‘just another bag’ made with more virgin materials. To execute the vision, lab.inc partnered with #tide Ocean SA, an Award-winning Swiss upcycling company that turns ocean-bound plastic trash into reusable raw materials. The result is a backpack that’s made almost entirely out of recycled plastic, from its waterproof outer fabric, to even the straps and robust plastic clasps.

Chennai corporation draws up plans to stop flow of waste into the sea

Greater Chennai Corporation is set to launch initiative to control marine plastic pollution and riverine plastic pollution. With support from The Energy and Resources Institute, the civic body plans to reduce the flow of plastic waste from the city into the ocean. The civic body has already created barriers in Cooum and Adyar rivers to trap plastic waste, cleaning these stretches at regular intervals. However, plastic waste continues to flow into the sea. River banks, including those of the Cooum, have huge quantities of plastic waste trapped in the soil and these are washed into the sea whenever there is flood. As a first step to prevent this, the civic body is planning to resume strict enforcement of plastic ban in all divisions. Shopkeepers had been warned about illegal use of plastic bags last week. The civic body will create awareness about plastic pollution among city residents.

Sunlight can bake plastic waste into a soup of organic molecules

Leave a cheap plastic bag in the sun long enough and it'll eventually crumble into a powdery mess, its petrochemical fragments destined to be blown far and wide by the elements. Microplastic fragments – considered a major ecological hazard all on their own – might not even be the worst thing to come out of this disintegration. A study led by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution finds sunlight isn't just capable of breaking plastics down; it can convert their base polymers and additives into a soup of new chemicals. The process isn't exactly slow either, with the variety of plastic bags experimented upon leaching a significant mix of soluble organic carbon compounds after being exposed to sunlight for less than 100 hours. Studies over the years have hinted at the possibility of more sinister transformations, with research finding that sunlight can chemically transform plastics and their additives into new polymers, as well as smaller chemical units that dissolve more easily and are made airborne. Individual discoveries are one thing. What wasn't known until now is the sheer diversity of chemical products a plastic item could produce as it sits baking in the sun. Researchers collected together a sample of consumer polyethylene bags from commercial enterprises such as Target and Walmart. Researchers also included a used bag from a CVS in a municipality with a plastic bag ban. An additive-free, low-density film bag made by Goodfellow served as a control. The bags were characterized in terms of organic and metal content and spectral qualities. Researchers placed swatches from the bags into sterilized beakers filled with an ionized solution to simulate immersion in seawater. Half of the beakers went into a dark draw for six days. The rest were left in a temperature-controlled chamber for five days, bathed in a consistent stream of radiation that mimicked the effects of sunlight. Samples left in the dark were found to have released a tiny amount of dissolved organic compounds into the salty solution. Those left in the light, however, were swimming in new chemicals. The used CVS bag presented the greatest difference in concentrations between the darkened container and the one exposed to sunlight, a measure that only went up the longer it was left in the light. Pulling apart this plastic soup into a list of its constituent molecules revealed tens of thousands of dissolved organic compounds, all produced on a timescale equivalent to just weeks of floating about in the ocean under the glare of the sun. The entire process is at least ten times more complex than chemists previously understood, leaving plenty of room for toxic materials we never even considered to be an issue.