June 18, 2012

A Contest, With Real Prizes!

What's Your Solution?
I will send a copy of my novel, The Rest Is Silence, to each of the five people who come up with the best way to resolve the glut of plastic debris in our world. Use your imaginations and invent or innovate some social, technical, or biological solution. It can solve the problem of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic in landfills, bags in trees, or any other plastic-pollution issue you care about.


Post your comments here and our panel of "technical" experts (e.g., me) will judge the entries to choose the five best.


Contest closes July 18, 2012.


                                                                         From www.fish-journal.com
Sea turtles like this guy are susceptible to suffocation when plastic is consumed.
Ah, birthday balloons . . . they seem so harmless.

16 comments:

Andrew Hazelden said...

Hi Scott.

The waste plastic could be recycled and used as feedstock for 3D Printers like the RepRap machine ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RepRap_Project ). This would allow a consumer to turn household plastic garbage into new objects, pieces of 3D art, or into homemade replacement parts to fix household goods at the end of their service life.

Mary Jane Copps said...

Hi Scott,

Great interview on the CBC this morning. My solution won't require any technical expertise. I believe that all of us,as consumers,can reduce our waste plastic substantially. Carry our own knives and forks so that we never again have to say "yes" to plastic cutlery; use clothe bags for all of our shopping; stop (please, stop) buying water in plastic bottles. So many of the large problems we face today can be solved by our individual actions. If we stop buying, manufacturers will stop making. Remember the New Coke? We didn't like it. We didn't buy it. It came off the market very quickly. A coffee shop I used to frequent here in Halifax recently took to placing their muffins in individual plastic containers. I spoke up and then I said goodbye. I realize that there are some items, foods and liquids, where getting away from plastic is unlikely but we can stop buying produce and baked goods that come in huge plastic boxes. What's with that anyway? We each have the power to create big change - we simply need to start using it. Congratulations on the book. mj

Mary Jane Copps said...

Hi Scott,

Great interview on the CBC this morning. My solution won't require any technical expertise. I believe that all of us,as consumers,can reduce our waste plastic substantially. Carry our own knives and forks so that we never again have to say "yes" to plastic cutlery; use clothe bags for all of our shopping; stop (please, stop) buying water in plastic bottles. So many of the large problems we face today can be solved by our individual actions. If we stop buying, manufacturers will stop making. Remember the New Coke? We didn't like it. We didn't buy it. It came off the market very quickly. A coffee shop I used to frequent here in Halifax recently took to placing their muffins in individual plastic containers. I spoke up and then I said goodbye. I realize that there are some items, foods and liquids, where getting away from plastic is unlikely but we can stop buying produce and baked goods that come in huge plastic boxes. What's with that anyway? We each have the power to create big change - we simply need to start using it. Congratulations on the book. mj

Greg Chandelier said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg Chandelier said...

Hi Scott:
There is actually a company now that actually breaks down waste plastic into it's component oil products. It takes a load of plastic, heats it up (with fuel produced by the process) and breaks it down into gas and other liquid petroleum products. A great partial solution for both plastic refuse and energy.

Rob M said...

My solution eould be to focus on reuse. The technology exists for 3d orinting in the desktop and with more development the costs could come down. unfortunately the materials used are very special and expensive. if we can develop a method to recycle plastic in the home to be used by the printers then we'll be able to create new products out if old with the instant gratification we want.

Fred said...

Hi Scott
Plastic Bag solutions: here are a few...
http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org/08.0/Strategies.pdf

Enjoyed your chat with Allison on CBC Radio's Sunday Edition this AM!

the UN must BAN PLASTIC BAGS GLOBALLY!
Cheers

Rob M said...

Sheesh, I didn't read the first comment!

Stephanie Dearing said...

Great interview on CBC July 8 - very informative, interesting ... I consider myself a greenie, and use my own bags when shopping, ride my bicycle (which I bought used) as much as possible, grow veggies, etc.. I've repurposed plastic bottles (large ones) into lettuce protecters, (cut off tops and bottoms), scooped from people's recycle bins this year. Protects them from rabbits and turns out, creates an environment young lettuce love! My idea isn't that new, or original, but repurposing plastic - without expending fossil fuels is my suggestion. I want to work on building myself some mini wind turbines and I would like to repurpose plastic to make my blades and housing. Mini turbines would not harm wildlife or urban life, but would help generate green electricity. What better way than to build them using repurposed plastics?

Michael Petryk said...

This may seem at first to be counter intuitive, but incineration is an excellent solution - it can be done cleanly, and it can generate power to offset the use of other fuels. At low temperatures incineration can be very polluting as it transforms solid phase refuse (which is concentrated in physical objects) into vapours and aerosols, many of which travel long distances and are toxic to life. The problem is not the incineration per se, but the fact that low temperatures lead to incomplete combustion, allowing parts of the constituent molecules to remain unchanged or to be only partially degraded. At extremely high temperatures of incineration (effectively) ALL bonds between molecules can be destroyed - there is no difference between a completely incinerated fertilizer and a completely incinerated pesticide - a molecule is reduced perfectly to its constituent atoms. Now, some atoms found in plastics (e.g., sulphur, chlorine and bromine) should not be released into the atmosphere but the exhaust from the incinerator can be scrubbed to remove many harmful atoms/clusters. Finally, the benefit of generating energy should not be overlooked. Petrochemicals are a fantastic resource and failure to reuse or recycle plastics them will encourage the production of more plastics - in this sense incineration is wasteful. However, if the incineration is harnessed to produce energy which then offsets the combustion of petrochemicals for energy production, the wastefulness of the process is decreased.

Michael Petryk said...

This may seem at first to be counter intuitive, but incineration is an excellent solution - it can be done cleanly, and it can generate power to offset the use of other fuels. At low temperatures incineration can be very polluting as it transforms solid phase refuse (which is concentrated in physical objects) into vapours and aerosols, many of which travel long distances and are toxic to life. The problem is not the incineration per se, but the fact that low temperatures lead to incomplete combustion, allowing parts of the constituent molecules to remain unchanged or to be only partially degraded. At extremely high temperatures of incineration (effectively) ALL bonds between molecules can be destroyed - there is no difference between a completely incinerated fertilizer and a completely incinerated pesticide - a molecule is reduced perfectly to its constituent atoms. Now, some atoms found in plastics (e.g., sulphur, chlorine and bromine) should not be released into the atmosphere but the exhaust from the incinerator can be scrubbed to remove many harmful atoms/clusters. Finally, the benefit of generating energy should not be overlooked. Petrochemicals are a fantastic resource and failure to reuse or recycle plastics them will encourage the production of more plastics - in this sense incineration is wasteful. However, if the incineration is harnessed to produce energy which then offsets the combustion of petrochemicals for energy production, the wastefulness of the process is decreased.

TheCopperHat said...

Hey Scott,

Great contest it's stirring up some great ideas. I'll add one I'm currently working with to the pile!

I take used styrofoam packing material and cups, and using a very large heat extrusion type method turn the material into solid rods about 1.5" diameter. I then put them on my lathe and turn them into shavin brush handles. An item expected to outlive you and your children's children! It works out to a rate of about 60 cups to every brush handle. It's a fantastic material to work with on the lathe and has a very cool textured finish.


I wrote a bit more about it on my blog www.thecopperhat.ca/blog (sorry on my phone I can't find the direct link)

Cheers
Brad

Greg Smith said...

Interesting interview this morning on The Sunday Edition. Glad I heard it because, sad to say, I had not heard of either you or your book (which I now intend to ask for at the library and/or suggest they get at once). My approach to the plastic bag problem would come at it from several angles. First, education since I know as a former teacher how hard it is to get through to people. As was done with smoking, use the media to just continually bombard people with the idea that using plastic bags is neither socially appropriate or acceptable; eventually, as with teenagers in a classroom, the message will sink in. Another idea in the short term seems almost radical; instead of making people pay to use plastic bags, pay them for each plastic bag returned to a collection point. This is the same idea that has worked to reduce the amount of beverage containers going into landfills. Imagine the charities that would jump on this idea since plastic bags are mush easier to collect and handle than bulky beverage containers. Finally, I recently listened to an interview on a CBC morning show in Corner Brook, NL with a woman who actually uses plastic bags to convert into material which she can sew or crochet into mats, clothing, or other items. Since Canadian textile mills and the textile industry is almost non-existent, think of how this industry could be revived by using something that is so abundant and cheap in western society. This idea could also be considered to be Eco-friendly since land used to produce cotton, wool, etc. could be put back into food production or even allowed to revert back to its natural state. So, to conclude, my plan would involve attacking the problem on three fronts requiring only the willpower and organization to get it done.

chiasmus said...

Here are two ideas:

One: plastic bottle as light source where there is no electricity
http://phys.org/news/2011-09-bottle-brighten-millions-poor-homes.html

Two: Filling them with other bits of garbage until they are solid and using them for building materials
http://www.greendiary.com/entry/amazing-houses-made-from-recycled-plastic-bottles/

Hope I win!

Thanks for such an interesting blog.

Un abrazo,
a.

Graham said...

I was going to submit an entry to the contest but I now realize I am too late to enter, so I offer my congrats to the lucky winners!

It turns out my idea may be more a pat on your back, Scott...

It began by listening to the story of an American man meeting an Irish woman in the 1950's after putting a message in a bottle. There is an engaging documentary about this at this link: http://tinyurl.com/8hrydsj

This, coupled with the the stories of Japanese tsunami debris washing ashore the west coast of North America, made me realize the power that can be generated by floating debris!

Any campaign that would result in messages containing positive environmental messages being floated in bottles might do a lot more harm before any good could come of it. So I thought, do it online using social media. And that is essentially what you have done with this blog and contest. So there's your pat on the back!

If you find any substance in my thinking, perhaps you could create a self funding online contest offering prizes to folks who put their messages with positive environmental messages in virtual bottles on a website. Prizes could start with copies of your book (as you have done) but you could solicit donations and offer them as prizes. You could change the frequency of prizes depending upon the response received.

WHY "THE REST IS SILENCE"? said...

Great idea Graham! I'll see what I can do.

Scott