"Only we humans make waste that nature can't digest"
Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic enter the environment and cause considerable damage. To effectively solve the problem, it is not enough to start cleaning up, we need to stop plastic production by actually turning off the tab and work together to develop new solutions that will bring positive long-term benefits for our planet.
Jul 23 | 21:00
KELP US SHAPE THE FUTURE
*Kelp = Large coastal seaweeds
Together we define.
Our Culture depends on Single-Use Plastics
Plastics have important functions and play major roles in our day-to-day lives, but their production, use and disposal have countless negative impacts on society and the environment. Due to its seemingly low price, wide range of uses, and great transportation functions, plastic is increasingly being used in millions of applications. As a consequence, plastic production has doubled in the last two decades.
Packaging creates a myriad of problems
Plastic as we know it is made from fossil oil. The extraction and processing of these materials is very energy intensive and often raw materials travel long distances to reach the point of manufacture. During the production of one kilogram of plastic, 3.5 kg of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere and after use, the carbon from the end products lingers in our usable environment - in the air, in the soil and in the water.
Microplastics are plastic fragments that are smaller than 5 millimeters in size and that are not biodegradable. They are created by the decomposition of larger plastic products through natural influences in our environment. Due to their size and chemical properties, they re-enter the human body via air, water and food.
To make plastic moldable and flexible, additives such as plasticizers and fire retardants are used, which are toxic to humans and animals. These substances ultimately affect reproduction and hormonal control in the body. They can evaporate from the plastic products or pass into them when they come into contact with other materials, especially fats and oils.
Exhaustible & Persistent Ressource
The production of plastic uses raw materials that are finite and do not or only slowly grow back and are essential for our ecosystem. In addition, plastics degrade only within 5 to 450 years, depending on the type of plastic and the environment. During this long degradation period, they cause significant damage to our living environment, contaminating other plants and resources.
New Problems Emerging From Bioplastics
State of the art Bioplastics are either still made from fossil materials or can only be biodegraded in certain environments, such as industrial composting facilities, requiring a lot of time and a lot of energy. Eventually, this means that it still ends up in landfills or incinerators, just like conventional plastic.
How is generating a new dimension
HAS THE SOLUTION BEEN IN THE OCEANS ALL ALONG?
WHY IS SEAWEED IMPORTANT?
Like other photosynthetic organisms, seaweeds produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Algae produces 30 to 50 percent of Earth’s oxygen, which sustains humans and other species that live on land. That’s more than all the tropical rainforests combined.
Seaweed has already been found in the deep sea, which has absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere. In the sea, CO2 becomes sediment and thus no longer negatively effects our environment, since it is dissolved in seawater and no longer present in the atmosphere. The growth of kelp indirectly binds parts of the CO2 from our atmosphere.
Fastest Growing Natural Resource
Algae grow ten times faster than land plants, and less than a tenth of the land is needed to produce the same amount of biomass. They grow on non-cultivable land and therefore do not compete with other plants for productive land. They do not require any fertiliser, thus intensive water use is avoided.
By farming coastal areas and discharging wastewater into the sea, algae can help protect the ocean from pollution. They can use particularly nutrient-rich wastewater to build up biomass. In this way, they can also clean water polluted with heavy metals or other substances in coastal areas by absorbing these substances into their mass.
Against Ocean Acidification
With increasing CO2 concentration in the air, the CO2 levels also rise in the sea. The consequences are that the sea becomes more acidic. The acidic conditions then become a stress factor for animals and plants in the sea. The growth of algae breaks down the CO2, thus counteracting acidification and creating a local habitat with a more neutral pH.
Seaweeds contain important components, including proteins, amino acids, minerals, lipids, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. By adding certain varieties to the diets of animals, it is expected to significantly reduce their methane emissions. The potential in the food sector is still largely unexploited, especially in Europe, however the demand for plant-based proteins is on the rise.
ALGAE FARMING HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CLEAN UP THE OCEANS AND THE ATMOSPHERE
Algae farms, or algal forests, are underwater habitats that are considered one of the most productive natural ecosystems on Earth. They are an important resource for naturally combating the effects of climate change and have positive impacts on a variety of environmental problems. As the climate crisis worsens, researchers have concluded that reducing carbon emissions is not enough to avert climate change, but that we must look for ways to actively remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere to achieve net-zero emissions.
On the one hand, algae act as a CO2 sink when they sink to the ocean floor and are deposited as sediment. On the other hand, algae are expected to have a wide range of uses as biofuels or as materials in other sectors, such as the food sector, and have some advantages over land plants.
Furthermore, the more stable pH and oxygen-rich conditions near algal forests provide important habitat for mussels and fish. Excess nutrients in the water result in a low-oxygen environment because oxygen is needed to break down nutrients and is therefore lacking for fish. Similarly, local nutrient inputs promote the growth of invasive plants, which works against biodiversity. Ecosystem function and performance is also affected. Natural CO2 inputs lead to increasing ocean acidification, affecting calcareous shellfish in particular. Algae absorb CO2 on a large scale and produce oxygen at the same time.