With the world’s pollution consistently increasing over the years, we begin to wonder what we can do to save it and just hope that it’s not too late. With the rise of trends such as metal straws and cardboard boxed water, we can see that our efforts are there—but will it be enough to reverse the damage that we’ve already caused? Well, before I set you off into an environmentally-themed existential crisis, I have good news! Scientists are currently in the works of creating a seaweed-derived biodegradable plastic that might just be the solution for a less polluted future and a healthier earth.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel are creating biodegradable plastic from seaweed consuming organisms. According to the UN, our oceans currently take in around 13 million tons of plastic annually, and that number was not planning to drop anytime soon . . . until now. The world that we recently thought was trapped in the eleventh hour may now be on its way to solving the overwhelming issue of ocean pollution. Traditional plastic is made up of petroleum plastics, products that do not disintegrate and take from hundreds to thousands of years to be broken down. Dr. Alexander Golberg of the Porter School of Environmental Studies, however, says that seaweed-based bioplastic is a perfect alternative that is not only sustainable but also harmless to the environment.
Golberg explained in an interview, “Seaweeds are marine organisms which we can grow in the sea without any use of arable land and drinking water. That’s why our process is very different.”
A report done by Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada found that Canadians use around three billion plastic bags annually while less than 11 percent of plastic bags are being recycled. On top of this mess of pollution, more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean each year.
When considering the pros of this seaweed alternative plastic, there are many pros that come with the future of these biodegradable products. The product is not only considered revolutionary, but it is also affordable and provides the opportunity to help the environment and save wildlife. According to the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA), around three million marine mammals and seabirds die in trash-related scenarios. Animals often mistake plastic products for food or can become entangled in these products to the point where survival becomes difficult. Unfortunately, it is not just small wildlife either. There have been reports of a large whale washing ashore dead in Sardinia that was recently found with over 40 pounds of plastic in its stomach.
While the seaweed alternative sounds promising, Canadian environmentalists are carefully optimistic. Karel Menard, the executive director of the Quebec Coalition for Ecological Waste Management said, “We just have to pay attention to not create another problem.” She further explained in an interview with CTV News that if manufacturers create one billion bottles using the new form of plastic seaweed, oceans can eventually become depleted of algae. Essentially, we just have to be careful to not kill one bird with two stones.
Research, however, is still being developed to measure how long seaweed would take to decompose beyond an aquatic environment.
While we figure out alternatives to the plastic pollution fiasco, many other countries have taken steps to use less plastic. Major moves to take on the plastic pollution have been made in Europe where the European Union voted last month to implement a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastics. Chile also hopped on board, recently banning businesses from using plastic bags.
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If we can get the rest of the world to stop or even reduce the use of plastic, maybe we won’t even need the biodegradable seaweed plastic. But until then, the solution seems like a promising alternative.