NEW YORK — More often than not, debates about end-of-life problems with plastic results in industry vs. environmentalist finger-pointing, stalemates — and no viable solutions.
But not at the Plasticity Forum.
The one-day event examining the future of plastic, held June 24 at Tribeca Rooftop in New York, brought together would-be opponents for a day of collaboration and discussion on how to treat plastic as a resource and not waste.
The third annual event moved to the United States for the first time, after an inaugural conference in Rio de Janeiro at the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit and a 2013 event in Hong Kong. A project of the Ocean Recovery Alliance and the Republic of Everyone, the Plasticity Forum aims to bring together leaders to collaborate to help scale up some of the great solutions now coming to market, the organizers say, and to showcase sustainable solutions and market opportunities for transforming all types of plastic “one through seven” into a valuable resource.
“This year's Plasticity Forum marks a new chapter in collaborative action between industry, governments and communities in banding together to scale solutions that can really drive mindset changes in how we perceive plastic in a new form, that of the resource that it truly is,” said Doug Woodring, founder of the event and Ocean Recovery Alliance. “By no means is this an easy challenge to address, but leaders at this event are some of the real trail blazers who know how to deliver solutions that we can all participate in, and benefit from, in our respective communities.”
Architect, author of Cradle to Cradle and self-styled sustainability guru William McDonough challenged attendees expand their thinking beyond the traditional Rs of “reduce , reuse, recycle,” to include “redesign, renew and regenerate.”
“We have to stop thinking about, using the phrase ‘end of life' with our plastic products. It goes in, it continues, it becomes something new. Let's move on, let's make it ‘next life,'” McDonough said in his keynote address, encouraging plastics processors and trade associations such as event sponsors the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Chemistry Council to consider products' potential next life on the front end, even in the design phases.
The conference brought together innovators from around the world to share their “next life” plans for plastics, including Arthur Huang co-founder and managing director of Miniwiz, a Taipei, Taiwan-based company dedicated to upcycling trash to create versatile, high-performance and low-carbon materials suitable for uses ranging from buildings to consumer products.
Infrastructure has been key to Miniwiz's successes, Huang said.