Let’s Fix the Marine (Non-Recyclable) Plastic Litter Issue!

We shall come up with innovative managerial and technological solutions to manage the non-recyclable plastic waste, and use the same to make Refused Derived Fuel (RDF), which is a win-win situation, i.e. solving the marine plastic litter issue and reducing fossil fuels burden.

The world produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, and the generation of plastic waste is more than plastic production as previous years’ waste also adds up. Annually about 3% (roughly 8 million tonnes) of global annual plastics waste enters the ocean through multiple outlets, including rivers, wastewater ways, fishing activities, landfill leakage among others. One thing is certain though: plastic is never really gone, as it is designed to fight the natural environment degradation, thus it does never degrade completely, itself. Through entanglement and ingestion, marine litter is causing marine life deaths, and it is significant potential to become part of our food chain.

Recycling plastic is surely one of the options to manage this problem, but this is not the ultimate solution, as the recycled material shall eventually end up in the ocean after 1-2 more life cycles. Despite efforts and serious concerns, in 2015 the world could only recycle 20% of global plastic waste. Let’s just admit the fact that not everything is recyclable. There are seven types of it and only three are potentially recyclable if they are uncontaminated. Even after that, every time we recycle, the quality is impacted.

My new idea is to think about innovative solutions to manage the non-recyclable plastic waste, which is currently neither recycled nor managed and making its way to open landfills and ultimately leaching out to the ocean and impacting marine life. I am looking forward to working with my Sciathon group on this issue and come up with more than one innovative solution to be able to manage the marine plastic issue for a greener and more sustainable world. The energy sector is a great part of this objective as all this non-recyclable plastic waste has major hydrocarbon potential energy which we can use to make Refused Derived Fuel (RDF), which is a win-win situation, i.e. reducing the non-recyclable plastic waste burden and also reducing fossil fuels burden.

Image courtesy of Lala Rukh Memon


Group Leader

Lala Rukh Memon, Lindau Alumna 2019
Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand