Friday, 20 Apr 2018
Business

How to replace the plastic?

Nadia Balducci has renounced the cañitas as who renounces junk food. He has not ordered them in restaurants for four years, nor does he take plates, cutlery or disposable cups to the beach. It has become an “agnostic” of plastic.

And is that every minute that passes, says the biologist, a truck is throwing tons of garbage into the sea, including waste bottles, bags, containers, badges, straw.

“We are filling our planet with this oil derivative, and the planet can not digest it,” he warns. Like a diseased liver that can not digest saturated fats will throw it out of your system. We saw it this weekend, a waste mince was returned by the sea to La Pampilla beach in Miraflores.

“Plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade,” adds Nadia, but the truth is that it will never disappear, or we will not see it happen.The containers that were used seventy years ago are surely still among us.They have probably fragmented to the level of dust and That dust has reached the farmland and the sea, our food pantries, are we eating our own plastic?

“It is known that there are around 18 thousand pieces of plastic per square kilometer of the planet, and even in Antarctica you can find waste,” adds Balducci. For that reason, he gave up the cane and the plastic containers, because the individual change can reduce the amount of waste that will eventually crush us.

Join the links

L.O.O.P, abbreviation of Life Out Of Plastic or Life outside the plastic, is an association that Nadia founded with three other professionals with the aim of promoting recycling.

Every summer they organize massive visits to the beaches of the country to collect waste.

In five years they collected a total of 124 tons, and in 2017 alone they found 18,007 plastic bags from supermarkets such as Tottus, Plaza Vea, Metro, Saga Falabella and Tambo, and 17,090 bottles.

In the hands of Nadia we could find a solution to this plasticized tsunami. It shows a black synthetic polyester bag made with 35 recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles.

“This bag demonstrates that it is possible to reintroduce used bottles to a new productive chain,” says the biologist.

It is the so-called circular economy, which consists of closing the cycle of recycling by reusing the waste, generating a new product that generates income and thus avoiding contamination of the environment.

In this cycle, the citizen and the municipalities have a leading role. How would my bottle become an input to make a bag like Nadia’s? Well segregating the garbage.

In the country, 250 municipalities have undertaken waste segregation programs. The Ministry of Economy encourages them since 2010, rewarding them with a greater budget transfer.

In Metropolitan Lima, bags of different colors arrive to our homes to segregate organic, cardboard and plastic waste. It depends on us that the waste is classified correctly and the plastic is collected and marketed later by the recyclers.

They are the link so that the piles of bottles from our dumpster do not reach the sea and become a new product.

The NGO Ciudad Saludable calls them “recycling entrepreneurs”. Its president, industrial engineer Albina Ruiz, points out that 108,594 families were recycling until 2009 informally in the country. Today thanks to the formalization of this office, 291 associations are already organized.

“They are recyclers trained in solid waste management and with legal vaccines such as antitetanica and Hepatitis B,” says Ruiz.

After sorting, stacking and compressing the PET bottles, the recyclers will sell them to the companies that will give them a new opportunity.

In Lima, San Miguel Industrias, for example, will turn them into new bottles; Gexim, on the other hand, will transform them into polyester fiber, the input of which the emblematic Tigre blankets are made (by 80%).

Everything transform

In the backyard of the Gexim store in Ate, thousands of PET bottles are stored, sooner or later, they will go through a network of machines that will change their appearance completely.

“After a process of sorting by color, washing and spinning, and crushing them into flaky pieces, the plastic will be melted in cauldrons at 270 degrees Celsius”, the industrial engineer Mauro Gelmi, heir of the company who founded his father in 1995, recounts the route followed by the bottles in the factory.

Meanwhile, in another environment, fine trickles are dropped from metal structures: it is the melted plastic that will later take the shape of freshly sheared wool from sheep or, its synthetic equivalent, polyester fiber.

“With this material you can make bags, blankets or sponges mattress bases,” Gelmi adds, “daily, ten tons of bottles are processed to produce eight of fiber,” he adds.

Gexim receives PET bottles from retail recyclers, who pay 1.20 per kilogram, as well as onegés who, instead of cash, ask for blankets for vulnerable populations.

Gemix proves that it is possible to close the circle of plastic recycling. What biologist Nadia Balducci raises is not unreasonable.

“If we think of a solution, we have to practice the three R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle,” he says.

As well as bottles, plastic bags are also a problem. In the country, there is still no law that regulates its use and distribution.

Congressman Guido Lombardi presented a bill in February last that proposes to eliminate progressively the use of this container. Likewise, it proposes that supermarkets replace polyethylene bags with others of biodegradable material.

If we look at the world, there are countries that have regulated their use several years ago. Bangladesh was among the first to totally ban its commercialization, followed by South Africa and Mexico; The city of San Francisco only accepts biodegradable bags since 2006, and China passed a law that prohibits the free distribution of bags in supermarkets in 2008. This as a way to pressure the consumer to carry a canvas bag or reuse the plastic bag in the next purchase.

Although we do not have laws, other solutions are proposed from one of the laboratories of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the PUCP.

Are there bags that can disintegrate completely? Yes, and they are made based on potato starch.

The mechanical engineer Omar Troncoso coordinates a research group that studies the possibility of producing biodegradable plastic made from natural resources such as starch, crustaceans or seaweed.

“These inputs degrade naturally, this type of plastic is completely compostable, that is, when it is buried with organic products it will disintegrate until it becomes usable land,” says Troncoso. In other countries such as the United States and Belgium there are companies that manufacture wraps like these. It is the solution to stop the plastic avalanche, but it is still a costly industry.

For now, the engineer asks to take with tweezers those notices from supermarkets that claim to distribute “oxobiodegradable” bags. Although they disintegrate faster than normal ones, they do not disappear because they take the form of particles that are plastic after all.

The circular economy closes the cycle of recycling, reuses plastic and turns it into a product with value. Biodegradable bags exist and are made of starch. In the PUCP they have spent years researching compostable plastic.

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