Desintegra.me is the name of the project that intends to replace single-use plastics with a new material made from raw material extracted from algae. Desintegra.me means in Spanish that the material "disappears" if you use it.
The material only includes natural matter, including the dyes used to colour it, which are extracted from the skins of fruits and vegetable such as blueberries, purple cabbage, beetroot and carrot.The basic mixture is made up of a polymer, a plasticiser and an additive, with the amounts of each ingredient varying depending on the desired consistency of the final product.The polymer and main ingredient in this case is agar – a jelly-like polysaccharide substance that is extracted from red algae.
The bioplastic packaging is especially suited to containing dry food products. It is best sealed with heat rather than glue in a bid make the end result as natural as possible.The versatility of the algae-derived material means that it has the potential to generate many different types of bioplastics – some more rigid and others more flexible – just by altering the proportions of polymer, plasticiser and additive in the mixture.
Algae packaging is designed to biodegrade in around two to three months after using it, depending on the thickness of the material and the temperature of the soil.
Scaling the use of algae in the material should not be bad, understanding that this type of alternative solutions to plastic should be accompanied by a change of mentality in people about the use of the materials we use daily. Minimise the use of materials that only provide facilities for a moment and use alternatives sustainable sometimes when we can not do without them.
The most important idea is not to take this material to an abusive production such as plastic, but to use it consciously and not abuse it.
In 1860 the first semi-synthetic plastic in the world was invented by the hand of Alexander Parkes, known as Parkesina. The results achieved by the first plastics encouraged chemists and industry to seek other alternatives to create more polymers.
In just one century, more than 17 different types of plastics were made in different parts of the world.
Today there are inexhaustible applications for plastics and some of them made history by changing our lifestyles, they are known worldwide and for most of us they have been present from the moment we were born. Zipploc bags, Tupperware supplies, Scotch 3M, Alusa Plast, bubble wrap for packaging, plastic bottles, among others.
30 years ago, not even half of the plastics that are consumed today were consumed. The culture of "consume and throw away" has been gaining ground in our habits. The factors that have brought us to this point are the advance of a neo-liberal consumer production system, characterised by speed and flexibility. We want the consumption of "fast" products that provide us with "facilities" without looking beyond our immediate need. All this without taking into account the socio-environmental repercussions generated by this consumption model. The one that leads us to consume disposable and replacement products, making the useful life of these products very small and giving way to world-famous single-use plastics.
This type of plastic is characterised by having a maximum of 40 minutes of useful life in the hands of the consumer, after this, they are thrown waiting for their degradation in 500 years or more, and are present in most of the objects that we use daily. . Most of them cannot be recycled since they have no market to be recycled, either because of their size, shape, weight or compounds. So, this type of plastic is designed to end up in the trash.
The plastic objects that we dispose of can end up in a landfill, be incinerated or recycled. This waste can reach the sea even when we throw it away due to the action of the wind, rain or simply because it was not disposed of correctly. Today only 9% of all the plastic that we have produced and consumed to date worldwide has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated and the vast majority, 79%, has ended up in landfills or in the environment. 80% of the waste we find in the sea comes from land, while the remaining 20% comes from maritime activity.
The impacts that plastic pieces have on marine life have long been documented: entanglement, suffocation, strangulation or malnutrition (after being ingested and blocking the animal's stomach). Today a special focus has been placed on microplastics, fragments smaller than 5mm, which have an impact even on the smallest species that are the basis of the marine trophic web. Those that can reach our plates along the food chain.
However, the biggest problem is not the plastic. Thanks to him, hundreds of things that previously belonged to the elite, became widespread and thousands of new products were created in order to facilitate daily living. It was a symbol of democratisation, of equity and of the future, at the same time it has very diverse characteristics and will probably be important for our future development.
The problem was that we destined a super material that is indestructible to products that are disposable par excellence.
Margarita Talep develops algae-based alternative to single-use plastic packaging (Article)