The avalanche of plastic waste that is rolling over land and sea has impressed quite a few potential options. Some contain inventing our approach out of the mess by creating new sorts of pure supplies that can harmlessly degrade in the event that they’re thrown away. Others say it may be faster to vary individuals’ throwaway habits as a substitute.
Among the many first groups is Stephen Mayfield. He is a chemist who found out the right way to turn varied sorts of algae into uncooked plastic — polyurethane plastic. Then he turns it into stuff people need.
Mayfield is a lifelong surfer whose lab in San Diego is strolling distance from the seaside. He works out of what seems like a machine store on the University of California campus. His surfboards obtained him some consideration (the mayor of San Diego has one); however, that is not what he really desires to make.
It was a browsing journey to the Maldives islands within the Indian Ocean that persuaded him to deal with one thing else. Someday, he requested his native hosts to take him to their most distant island.
Flip-flops are the footwear for a lot of the world’s inhabitants. They’re made by the billions yearly, principally from varied types of rubber or plastic. The pile Mayfield noticed within the Maldives had floated there on ocean currents from, presumably, all around the world.
So Mayfield now makes flip-flops from algae grown in tanks. What makes them particular is that they degrade if not noted within the setting. Changing flip-flops is a private mission, says chemist and fellow surfer Suri Sherman, who’s the “polyurethane chef” in Mayfield’s lab.
Sherman begins with algae-primarily based polymers, known as polyols, then provides a catalyst and different polymers and chemical substances in a gooey concoction, not unlike a two-part epoxy combine.
Mayfield says there’s some conventional petroleum-based mostly polymer in there, too. However, the entire shoe will biodegrade into innocent supplies. It simply wants the fitting bacteria and moisture to interrupt it down.
Probably two years as trash is not good; however, Mayfield says it is higher than many years and even longer. The true downside, he says, is that new technology is a tough promote. Producers are reluctant to take a threat on a brand new, unfamiliar product.