• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.


Some real good news

Two items of good news for the environment, one of them potentially very significant.

January 6, 2011

Two items of good news for the environment, one of them potentially very significant.

First, it appears that Italy has become the second country (after France) to outlaw the distribution of non-biodegradable plastic bags. When France did it, the impact was minor in that reusable shopping bags have been common (if far from universal) in French life for years. But Italy isn't France -- last year Italian stores went through some 20 BILLION plastic bags, more than 300 for every man, woman and child in the country. That's on the same order of magnitude as the USA, so if the Italians can do it . . .

The even bigger news is that engineers at the University of Warwick have come up with a way to recycle virtually every kind of plastic. Right now, recycling plastics involves grinding/chopping them up into tiny pieces and then heating the pieces until they stick together to form some new object. What the new process promises to do is to chemically distill complex plastics into their simpler chemical components, which can then get separated (distilled) and recombined into new, effectively virgin, materials. Not only does this mean we'll stop having to check the "recycling numbers" on the bottoms of plastic containers, but plastic recycling can reach the high levels currently exhibited by glass and metals. And recycled plastic can become a far higher-value industrial feedstock. (Not to mention that it can potentially supplant a significant portion of petroleum demand.)


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