Thursday, July 03, 2008

go canada! Let's hear it for home grown plastic recycling

This is one of those things that I think the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, or the Canada Foundation for Innovation should be holding prizes for. Also, it should be much much closer to the front page than it is.

A grade 11 kid in Ontario has developed a composting mechanism including the appropriate bacterial culture to break down plastic bags within 3 months. Break down plastic bags in a three month period. Three months. This is something scientists have been working on for about a decade since the plastic developed and produced since it's advent in the 1950's has no degradable component and no naturally occurring microbes yet exist that will ingest it on a large scale. The cleanup efforts this process could assist are breathtaking, particularly considering the monstrous build-up of floating plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean.

The next questions to ask are: how can this be improved on and implemented, what materials are left after decomposition and what should be done with them, and how do we prevent this innovation from giving plastic companies an excuse to keep mass-producing without killing the innovation itself?

A related story was put just as far from the headlines showed the Barrie Metals Group recycling high-tech materials and using some components to make diesel fuel. This was in the small-business section of the CBC and failed to correlate this with another story on the staggering high-tech waste being unsafely recovered in landfills in Asia.

Too often stories like these and others are kept separate, portioned off to us in varying sections of reports, papers and websites. A little momentum if you please? Could we relate the current international food crisis to the need for diesel fuel that can be created from reclaimed laptops, copiers and computer screens? How about the possibility of cleaning up not just the Thames, a section of wetland or a coastline, but in fact a continental section of ocean.

More than cynical commentary or semantic condescention, what we need is actual discussion, some hows, some funding and some linkage to how one technology can affect diverse situations the world over.

And what the hell, it's an Olympic year. Let's shout a little that it's happening here.

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