Lessons from nature – bringing waste back into the cycle – National Geographic

August 30, 2022 by No Comments

The continuous cycle of life in the oceans has inspired innovations in everything from robotics to infrastructure. Watch how engineer Arthur Huang built an exhibition center from 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles.

Covid-19 affected people and the planet in myriad ways, but one impact set to long outlive most of us who survived the pandemic is the plastic waste it generated. A study has found that by August 2021, more than 8 million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste had been generated globally, with more than 25,000 tons— the equivalent of 2,000 double decker buses—entering the global ocean.

Even more worryingly, the scientists behind the statistics predict that, by the end of the century, almost all pandemic-associated plastics will end up on the seabed or beaches.

While the global plastic waste problem has long been out of control, Covid-19 has intensified our use of single-use plastics, pushing the issue to new heights. The waste includes test kits and personal protection equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, the vast majority of which comes from hospitals, rather than individual use. The bulk of global discharge is from Asia (72 percent).

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A study has found that almost all pandemic-associated plastic waste will end up on the seabed or beaches by the end of the century.

Photograph by Choy Tsai (Left) and Photograph by Vinod Varma (Right)

Awareness of the scale of the planet’s waste problem is growing, with governments in many countries ramping up recycling programs. Businesses around the world are also increasingly incorporating the use of recycled materials into their products.

South Korean car manufacturer Kia is helping to tackle ocean plastic waste by partnering with organizations that collect waste from the oceans. The company also invests in recycled materials research, and incorporates recycled materials in its car parts, including in models such as the new Niro and the EV6. The recycled materials are found, for example, in the floor carpet and the material on the ceiling, and in interior plastic parts and textiles.

Kia plans to increase the share of recycled plastic in its vehicles to 20 per cent by 2030. Its Niro model already incorporates sustainable materials developed from recycled wallpaper, eucalyptus leaves, and water-based paint to minimize impact on the environment.

Recycled plastics are now also used in everything from packaging materials to bags, furniture, plant pots and even curbstones.

Product designers, scientists, engineers and architects are taking inspiration from the natural world, including the ocean ecosystem, where waste is integrated back into the cycle of life. Likewise, the circular economy brings waste back into the system, in a closed loop. This stands in opposition to our current model of take, make, and throw away.

Biomimicry—solving complex human problems through the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature, such as the ocean—has inspired engineering innovations in the fields of robotics, medicine, infrastructure and energy.

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Designers at South Korean car manufacturer Kia select …….

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/paid-content-lessons-from-nature

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