To help find some consensus on the future of compostable plastics, the Science and Policy Integration Network (SPIN) and Recycling Council of British Columbia partnered to host a one-day workshop on compostable plastics and the circular economy in November 2019. Led by Dr. Love-Ese Chile, from Grey to Green Sustainable Solutions, the workshop featured a morning of short talks from manufacturers, processors, and researchers with experience in compostable plastics. In the afternoon, the SPIN facilitated a breakout discussion and townhall to identify shared concerns and action items for moving compostable plastics forward in BC.
“The circular economy includes or encompasses regenerative systems that can restore, revitalize, and regenerate the materials they use. This is a vision for tomorrow and a future that we can be proud of.”
"With growing pressure to reduce our collective environmental footprint, more municipalities and countries are banning single-use plastics. There is increasing demand for compostable plastics, and with this demand comes an increase in manufacturing of these products and an increase in attention from policy-makers. However, it’s clear that compostable plastics are not the immediate solution, and businesses still need to find easy, readily available, and culturally acceptable options that will allow consumers to reduce and reuse, not just recycle."
The COVID-19 outbreak has created a situation of uncertainty and concern. Many are already affected by policies to restrict travel and reduce exposure through social contact. With less than 90 days until our planned 2020 conference, RCBC is currently gathering information to determine the best course of action in this public health emergency. Obviously, our first concern is for the health and safety of our member community and staff.
BC’s Ministry of Health has now issued an order to cancel all events in the province of 50 people or more. At this time, the order covers events up to May 30. However, that timeframe may be extended as the situation unfolds. As this order does not currently extend to RCBC’s June 10-12 conference dates, we are left in a difficult position. Our options include:
1. Holding the event as planned.
2. Moving to a later date in August, September, or October.
3. Cancelling the 2020 conference outright.
There are a number of factors to consider that include public health, personal safety, the availability of speakers, as well as financial losses and penalties, which RCBC would incur upon cancelling. So, we will continue to monitor the situation, work with our community regarding possible contingencies, and look for guidance from the provincial health authorities to minimize any potential health risks.
While we determine a course of action in the coming weeks, please know that we continue to appreciate your support. So, please be assured that if a date change or cancellation is announced, RCBC will offer a full refund without penalty to all conference registrants and exhibitors, or transfer the registration to the new date as an optional choice.
We realize the difficulty this presents for your planning and travel arrangements. We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead as more information becomes available. We expect to make a determination in advance of our June dates that will minimize any inconvenience. Our next scheduled update will be April 2.
Thank you for your continued support during this difficult time. Please stay safe and be well.
"The EU has unveiled its master plan to move beyond the ‘throwaway economy’ today. Despite the absence of targets to reduce the impact of our consumption, the strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manufacture and use our products in a way that benefits people and the planet."
"The Circular Economy Action Plan can be a turning point for sustainability and climate action in Europe, which will hopefully inspire the rest of the world. It shows that the systemic change the people and the planet need is within reach."
"Proposed measures aim at making sustainable products the norm and fighting premature obsolescence. For example, minimum repairability requirements aimed at facilitating the disassembly of smartphones will considerably extend their lifespans."
"Welcome to the expanding sector of remanufacturing. The practice essentially involves taking products or components, whether in disrepair or at the end of their useful lives, to a like-new condition. Accomplished through a variety of processes and advanced by new technologies like 3-D printing, products as small as a coffee maker and as large as a medical imaging machine can now be upgraded. Rather than recycling or merely refurbishing the item to its original state, the process also enhances the product to make it comport with the latest technology."
“Remanufacturing is a smart way to continue to advance without creating a lot of waste. The development of new technology is allowing remanufacturing to grow stronger,” Dr. Nasr said. “Most of the emission and waste from manufacturing comes from material mining and processing.”
"While at first glance it seems similar to refurbishing, the results differ. A refurbished engine, for example, might be equivalent to one in excellent working condition but has already been in service for 30,000 miles, while a remanufactured engine should be equivalent to one that has not yet been in service, so it is like new, said Nabil Nasr, the director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
While still a relatively small subset of manufacturing, its use is likely to grow as a result of recent technical advances like additive manufacturing, data analytics and the internet of things, also known as IoT. And it is an integral part of the circular economy that strives to keep materials in the economy and out of landfills."
"In a circular economy, products are in the first place used as long as possible, and then are reused, repaired, and recycled. “Circularity saves raw materials and reduces environmental impacts. However, today many products cannot be recirculated or recycled because low concentrations or high dispersion make it impossible to reuse them”, describes Kümmerer the limitations of this approach. 'Often, when we reuse materials, we downcycle them, because it is not possible to restore the same high-quality material. The solution here is a better product design from the beginning.'"
Researchers have published guidelines on how to rethink chemistry for a circular economy in a Science article.
"In their article, the authors suggest that scientists decipher chemicals at the atomic and molecular level and decode how their design can fit into the concept of a circular economy. This implies simplifying the molecular complexity so that products are as simple as possible in their composition, contain fewer additives, and avoid toxic components and those that are difficult to separate during the recycling process. Altogether, the authors put forward 15 rules on how chemistry can be integrated into a circular economy. They demand that companies assume responsibility for their products throughout their complete life cycle and hope that they become more involved in the research and development of recycling technologies, as well as improved product design in the sense of the circular economy."
"The impact of Amazon’s cheap, hard-to-fix gear is ignored or obscured at every level. The company’s environmental report talks about a 'circular economy' mostly in the context of refurbished goods customers can buy. Customers, it reads, 'may discover' a device recycling program or trade-in programs (we had no idea either existed, and you likely didn’t, either). An iFixit staffer who twice received a keyboard with a missing part was told by different Amazon customer support reps to 'just simply thrown into trash' [sic] and “just [give] it to garbage man, they will separate that.'"
"But nobody seems to be asking of Amazon the same kind of device stewardship that we ask of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even smaller brands."
"Activists like us at iFixit pressure the makers of expensive, useful devices when they fail to design for reliability and a sensible afterlife. Sometimes it pays off. Apple is pushing the envelope and developing recycled sources for challenging materials like rare earth metals, and puts trade-in and recycling options in front of their customers. Microsoft redesigned the Surface Laptop 3 to dramatically improve its repairability. Amazon, meanwhile, is selling loads of electronic devices at artificially low prices, and their product responsibility policy is, at best, a quiet and very mixed message.
It’s high time that we demand better. Let’s hold Amazon to the same e-waste standards as the rest of the industry."
Canada's Longest Standing Recycling Council