I have worked in field of International Development for many years, and always in one way or another linked to environmental issues. My first time in Africa, almost 20 years ago, I was coordinating a food security project that involved planting trees. The trees were seeded in small black bags, and to this day, I can remember the small plastic bags flying everywhere. What is scary, is that 20 years latter, those bags if they were not incinerated, are still there. The irresponsible way in which we have contaminated our planet hunts me. Last year, while working on a project in Indonesia, the topic of plastic pollution was ever so present, being the second most plastic polluted country in the world, and I started to look for some sensible solutions. I came across a very interesting initiative that involved the creation of circular landscapes but exclusively with plastic bottles PET. It is a very successful project that has grown to many countries. But what was a bit disturbing is that all non valuable single use plastic, had no way out and was often incinerated in cement factories which are great polluters.
What it does
I started to look for a solution and by chance I came across a German company that had just brought to the market technology to convert single use plastic into fuel, by a process called pyrolysis. A 40 feet magic container, where you put single use plastic on one side, and out comes a high quality fuel. This machine can process one thousand (1000) kilograms of plastic a day with an outcome of nine hundred (900) liters of fuel a day. It can be expanded to five thousand (5000) kilograms per day.
How I built it
At the time, they were just coming into the market with the product, and to me, it was the solution I had being looking for, for a very long time. I am now working with them, and I see a practical and sensible solution to an imposible problem; where single use plastic became a valuable commodity.
Challenges I ran into
I have gone into my network to tell them about this option, and since it involves technology, often people don't understand how can plastic wrappers become fuel. It almost sounds too good to be true. Financing the equipment can be a challenge, and we have looked into the possibility to use social responsibility funds to co-finance the machines.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We have so far distributors in a few countries, and we are exploring with the European Union in Bangladesh to bring this technologies to the refugee camps. The camps are full of plastic, and refugees are not allowed to work, but there are programs where refugees can work for cash. With the use of this technology, we could create a circular landscape at the refugee camps, where refugees can receive cash for plastic, or they could be paid in fuel for heating their tents.
What I learned
I have mostly worked in the public sector, and now I see that a healthy convention of private and public sector works best. And the use of technology is definitely a must.
What's next for Single use waste plastic for local development.
Before covid-19 we were out in the streets calling attention to global warming, we all had to stay still, and the planet has reacted positively.
At this time, more than every, even though it is a challenging time, we as a world community need to come up with creative "out of the box" solutions to uplift the communities that suffered during this crisis, without forgetting our planet. The use of Blockchain technology in circular economies could be fundamental, since most people in the world own a smart phone, or have access to one, people that have no access to formal bank accounts can greatly benefit from having a savings account for the first time.
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