Our second Plasticity Forum was held in Hong Kong in early June with great success. What was amazing was the excitement and surprise support from some of the big industry producers of plastic once they finished the event. Most might have thought they were about to hear the doom and gloom of waste and its impacts, but instead, it was an inspirational discussion with thought leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and do-ers. Plasticity is about the future of plastics, and where the leaders are going with innovation, design, packaging, materials, recycling and solutions. It is about products and technologies that need to be scaled up, and helping brands and governments understand the opportunities related to new ways to drive customer engagement, collection and resource optimization.

The video below shares a nice summary of the event including the newest innovations and collaborations. Have you ever seen a kayak made of plastic bottles?

Many in our communities want to help our waste issues, but don’t know how.
Companies are similar, but don’t know all of the options that are available out there, nor do they know how to find out in an easy manner. Plasticity helps bring these groups of people together, many of whom do not speak together on a normal basis, but should, when you think about the size of the industry they represent and the resources that are left behind as a result. Those “left behind” products are what make up our landfills, fill our waterways, or sometimes get burned. But this is leaving opportunity on the table.

Panel at Plasticity Forum

Every year a staggering 280 million tons of plastic is produced globally, yet it’s estimated that only 10% each year is actually recycled.
Capturing this waste stream presents a significant and untapped business opportunity, as does the redesign of packaging, and the thought process around waste creation. Plasticity is a unique business event about the future of plastic, and how companies, communities and governments can work together to create new business models and opportunities that can use the vast waste resources that we create each day in our respective countries. It is a dialogue that is not happening enough around the world, yet the opportunities for new business models are large. Hong Kong, for example, creates at least 1,700 tons of waste plastic per day, yet with an under-organized infrastructure to capture the value of this waste stream.

Why has plastic been perceived to be "not economic" to recycle?
This is mainly because our waste collection systems, methodologies and mindsets are not up-to-date. Even if we go to one of the most simple options, sorting by "Wet or Dry", we would be able to make enormous inroads, advancements and changes. This idea needs no technology, just focus. But we are not, and have not. Why? Because our old ways are entrenched, and it is "easier" to co-mingle everything, "wash our hands" of our waste, and let the haulers do their stuff. Taking the money away as they do it. Sadly, most communities have left it to be co-mingled, and then have buried it (or burned it). Or, in other cases, the haulers earn a new stream of income by reselling what they can to traders who ship it to China or Asia and rid us of our ills. Well, China has caught onto this, and has now erected the “Green Fence.” Yes, you can peer through it, and it looks nice, but you can't get your plastic waste through the gates anymore unless it is washed, processed and good enough to use, so it does not end up in their streams, rivers or open pits.

Plasticity Forum

This is where EKOCYCLE is, as well as the big discussions at Plasticity – with the group on the end of their chairs. Remember - "Wet or Dry". When this happens, we have two big new feedstock streams. Food waste can easily become methane and run turbines, with distributed power, which completely complements "distributed" trash/feedstock collection. The other is the dry, and the tough-to-deal-with plastic, which is now, not so tough! Economies of scale are created, it's easy to sort, jobs are created, and the municipalities with zero-waste-to-landfill goals are off and running.

Collection rates for end of life ‘stuff’ containing plastics are on the rise around the world at the community and producer levels.
A growing number of large manufacturers are looking to increase their use of recycled plastics. This is being driven by “market access” standards such as EPEAT as well as the perception among a growing number of brands that consumers are making more decisions based on sustainability criteria, including recyclability and recycled content. Manufacturers are also beginning to look at “closing-the-loop” as both a way to win and keep customers as well as hedging the security of their supply chains from the upward march of raw material costs.

Douglas at the Plasticity Forum

So, this is an interesting time, with lots to do, and that means a huge amount of opportunities.
It requires innovation, new business models, and rethinking the way we live, sort things, and embrace things that create positive change in the things we do. We look forward to the next Plasticity event, with EKOCYCLE and its collaborators showing the world what can be done.

For more information, visit Plasticity Hong Kong online. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook. This post was originally shared on EKOCYCLE's website.

Douglas Woodring

Douglas Woodring is Founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance and Plasticity at the Rio+20 Earth Summit.