DEBBIE'S TRAVEL BLOG7 Jun 2016
I know I have covered the topic of waste in a previous blog, but this issue is huge and we all have a role to reduce impacts, as consumers, brand owners and manufacturers. Having worked my way through South-East Asia these last couple of months I am truly horrified by the waste. It’s not just packaging but consumer products are also discarded everywhere post-use. We have to minimise waste and increase the use of bio-based alternatives to traditional fossil-fuel-based products/resources. Waste is at the tail end of the issue and because it is something that affects us visually (as I have been experiencing in my travels), the topic of waste elimination gets a great deal of attention. What we sometimes forget is that at the head of the process, decisions can be made, that fix the tail. Resource efficiency and resource selection are key considerations that can make the biggest difference in reducing end-of-life environmental impacts. I think NZ’s designers, brand owners and packaging manufacturers should prescribe the use of bioproducts in manufacturing processes because it is good for the planet. Bioproducts are any products - fuels, chemicals, raw materials - made from renewable resources. Instead of depending on the planet's limited supply of non-renewable resources (such as petroleum and coal), plant material and municipal and livestock waste - biomass - are turned into electricity, fuels, plastics and the basic components of chemical processes. There are so many opportunities to use bioproducts in processes, whether the input resources, the recycling of a plant’s own manufacturing waste products into energy generation or in the selection of the adhesives used. The Manufacturing and Bioproducts division of Scion Research is at the forefront of global research into bio-based alternatives to traditional fossil-fuel-based products, with packaging alternatives high on the list. Scion’s work covers lightweight biopolymer products, hybrid fibre-bioplastic products, bioadhesives, bioplastics and biofoams. They have been doing some exciting work with overseas clients and markets. Some NZ companies are also engaged and actively working in this area, but there is room for more local brand owners, product designers to utilise this knowledge and improve their performance. I started out with the premise that the biggest impact for waste reduction and end-of-life for a product comes at the design and resource selection stage. It is important to note there are other important activities – for example there is also a growing market to produce high-value bioproducts from waste. For example, hotels, restaurants, vegetable oil industries and biodiesel producers are sources of cheaper oils and oil wastes. Use of such waste streams to produce bioproducts' such as biosurfactants and ester oils could sustainably reduce production costs and are also important in diverting waste to landfill. The infrastructure may not be in place for all waste streams at this stage but if there is increasing demand from consumers, manufacturers and brand owners alike, then the market will respond.