National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Plastics – substitutes vs recycling
How green are the alternatives really? How does biodegradable plastic (and other innovative biomaterials) compare to improved recycling efficiency? What is the answer to managing the mountains of plastics that humanity continues to produce and use? Although many alternatives have been introduced (reusable straws, stainless steel cups, glass bottles etc), there are claims that many of these do more harm than good. Sometimes, what seems groundbreakingly sustainable is not so green on closer inspection. But what are scientists producing that can be good substitutes – on a large scale – for replacing plastics ? What’s really happening in SA with recycling? Then there is recycling, or the processing of existing plastic products to manufacture new plastic products. Without recycling plastics efficiently, these indestructible materials will stay in the environment or landfills for hundreds of years. How are we doing in South Africa? What are the prospects for recycling all new plastic products?


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