The Good plastic, the Bad plastic, and the Ugly plastic

July has been a month of travel and hectic scheduling. I’ve been to three islands working on three different programs, all with the goal of making disposable plastic waste a thing of the past in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Plastic comes in all types of forms, some good and some bad, but more often than not plastic becomes something very ugly when we decide to throw it out. Plastic is meant to last forever, which is why it seems mind-boggling that disposable plastic has become such a commonplace aspect of our lives. My job in the Bay Islands this summer, along with Eliana and Saba, is to work with businesses, schools, nonprofits, and government agencies to tackle the wicked problem of disposable plastics.

I am pursuing three key projects on the islands of Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja. The first is the displacement of disposable plastic items with naturally biodegradable and compostable materials, such as paper, wood, bamboo, sugarcane, rice starch, and the list goes on. There are already distributors offering these options on Roatán, and I have been working with them to expand product offerings and potentially ship products to newly formed distributors on Utila and Guanaja. By the end of August, I’ll share with businesses and distributors a complete guide I’ve developed for switching from plastic to alternative material products, including best practices, supplier lists, and employee training instructions.

My other two projects pertain to waste plastic collection and processing, since although we may not like it, plastic will inevitably be with us for quite some time. I have written a business plan for an innovative and open source concept known as a Precious Plastic shop, originally developed by a company in the Netherlands. A Precious Plastic shop allows a community to process waste plastic into new commercially valuable goods using a small-scale shredding and processing facility with minimal upfront investment and limited overhead. I am working with community leaders on all three islands to get Precious Plastic shops established and start eating up waste plastic. My final project is working with a (currently unnamed for privacy reasons) company to incorporate plastic waste shreds into construction materials, so the plastic can displace some of the sand used in concrete and cement production. Soon waste plastic may be incorporated into buildings around the Bay Islands.

August will definitely prove to be an eventful month, and I look forward to seeing how each of my projects wrap up in the last few weeks of my fellowship down in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

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