Made of the right stuff

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Stardate 20201210

Progress on the marketing is now continuing apace. With Erica charging ahead in that area I have had the opportunity to look into the design further.

I want to ensure our product is made as sustainably as possible and recently there have been advances in bioplastics as alternative to 'regular' plastics.

Why the fuss?

Plastic is an incredible material, a wonder of the modern world in many ways: It's durable, can be formed into incredible shapes, colours and finishes. BUT... as uncle ben said in Spiderman 'with great power comes great responsibility'. Mankind has not done a great job with that responsibility and single use plastics typically end up in landfil or, worse, the ocean where they break down into microplastics that enter the food stream and damage the environment. Indeed, a 2017 study estimated that 6.3bn tonnes of the 8.3bn produced since 1950 has been thrown away.

Enter bio plastics.

These have increased in popularity recently as the public has become aware of the damage single use plastics can do and with bans on single use plastics like straws set to come into force . Great! Biodegradable or compostable (note the emphasis on or) plastics lets use those!

Well it's not that simple - this is 'just swapping one polymer for another' (Mark Miodownik in the Guardian).

I'll leave the discussion of biodegradable vs compostable for another blog but for now let's just say that to break both these types of materials down they need industrial composting where high temperatures are maintained for days. These industrial composters form part of a sustainable system rather than looking for a sustainable material (hint - one does not exist!)

Unfortunately, in most parts of the world the isn't the infrastructure to deal with these bioplastic materials for large consumer items. I live in the UK and don't know how I would dispose of a composting toilet made of compostable material with metal stirrers etc. there would be no kerbside collection and my local refuse centre would likely look at me in horror were I to launch it into the composting pile!

I'm currently living in Spain and, in this particular region, food waste is not collected by the local authorities for composting. A toilet would be out of the question.

Instead, the system and infrastructure is in place for sustainable recycling of plastic. Care can be taken in the design stage to make it as easy as possible to recycle at the end of its long life. Finally, using recycled material for the manufacture sets an example of not creating more plastic and increasing demand for recycled plastics.

Manufacturing with recycled material will likely cause challenges through imperfections in finish. I believe this is something we will have to overcome with better QA and finding the right manufacturer to work with. However, it is non-negotiable.

We can't keep making more plastic.