Breaking the Plastic Habit

Our next big exhibition will empower our community to live sustainably. Learn some small steps you can take right now to contribute to this effort.

By Michelle Maranowski

Plastics pollute our oceans, land and air. Plastic bags can take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to decompose. A plastic bottle can take up to 750 years to decompose. Although plastic makes life easy, it contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling helps the problem, but much of our recycling waste was going to China, which has recently stopped accepting recycling trash such as plastics and paper. Plastic has also become more expensive to recycle, and many businesses don’t want to take on the extra cost. We need to rethink our dependence on plastic.

Tech solutions

Many companies are experimenting with biology to help break down or create bio-friendly plastics.

Full Cycle is creating bioplastics made by bacteria that feed on organic material like wood and plant waste. The bioplastics are compostable and marine degradable, which means they won’t float around in our oceans forever.

Mango Materials is creating bio-based, biodegradable plastics. The company feeds methane (a type of greenhouse gas) to a bacteria that transforms it into a bioplastic that can be made into products (like clothes!) and easily recycled in a closed-loop process.

BioCellection took a youthful passion to save the environment and created a chemical process that breaks down hard-to-recycle plastics into precursors that are used to make nylon resins and yarns.

What you can do

STOP using plastic!

That may be difficult for many of us, but think about where plastic is a part of your life and choose alternatives. Bring your own water bottle and coffee mug to work or school. Avoid straws. Swap plastic wrap for glass mason jars or one of the many new eco-friendly wraps utilizing beeswax. And this is just a start — we bet you can think of a ton of other plastic products you can drop from your life.

Sometimes climate change feels like such an overwhelming problem that we feel helpless to stop it. But our small actions grow into large impacts. Take a look at the plastic straw bans happening in cities across the world, and how that’s encouraging companies to think of alternatives and lawmakers to consider other policies to fight climate change. We’re hopeful, and we think you should be too!

Michelle Maranowski is a curator and exhibit developer and working on The Tech’s next exhibition about living sustainably on earth. She also helped develop the Cyber Detectives and Social Robots exhibits. She has a doctorate in electrical engineering and a passion for asking smart questions and consulting the world’s leading voices in sustainability.