Grabbing a plastic water bottle or packing your lunch in a plastic sack might be convenient, but the reality is those items don’t disappear after they are thrown away. Non-reusable items account for more than 40% of plastic waste, adding to the 8.8 million tons of plastic trash that flows into the ocean each year.
These statistics have captured the attention of millions across the globe. Increasing awareness of the impact of plastic waste is driving the need for change at all levels, from an individual’s decisions about consumption and disposal, to large-scale corporate initiatives.
Many companies have taken steps to help reduce their environmental impact. Marriott International announced that by 2020 it would eliminate all single-use plastic toiletries across its more than 6,500 hotels worldwide. McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, and Evian are a few other companies that are following suit, making a pledge to reduce plastic waste.
However, it is not just large corporations that are working to change their ways. New products that make it easier to reduce waste in everyday life are steadily entering the consumer market — and many have been patented. A quick text search for “reducing plastic” in the ktMINE Search Application yields the following results, showing that there has been an increased interest in patenting products that work toward reducing plastic waste.
Here’s a roundup of some innovative technologies that have been developed and patented in the effort to help decrease the daily use of plastic products.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Cities around the world have been cracking down on the use of plastic shopping bags by adding additional taxes or even going as far as banning them altogether. These types of rules and regulations encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags in an effort to reduce the one trillion plastic bags that are used each year. The Shopping Bag System, a patented product owned by Blue Avocado Co., provides an assortment of reusable and collapsible component carriers suitable for various types of goods – making it not only easy to fill but saves you from having to resort to alternative containers.
Snack Bag Alternative
These stylish, reusable silicone snack bags that one can cook, store, freeze, and throw in the dishwasher have prevented millions of single-use plastics from piling up in landfills. The food storage industry has equipped consumers with on-the-go reusable containers for years. Stasher, however, is one of the first snack bag alternatives that has entered into the market — working to reduce the 58,164,139 Ziploc bags that are used in the United States alone. According to the company’s IP portfolio, Stasher appears to be continuing its efforts to produce plastic alternatives, and we may see additional products from the brand hit the market soon.
A Guilt-Free Cup of Coffee
Americans drink around 400 million cups of coffee a day, 75 million of which are brewed using a single-use pod. While single-use coffee pods may be small in size, the waste they generate adds up fast. The amount of single-use coffee cartridges that have been trashed into landfills could wrap around the planet more than 10 times. The Single serving reusable brewing material holder with offset passage for offset bottom needle was patented by inventor Adrian Rivera in 2016. This beverage filter cartridge works like the standard paper coffee filter but gives coffee drinkers the flexibility to brew a single cup without using plastic.
The technologies described above illustrate the intersection of environmentally responsible design and innovation. If companies continue to prioritize environmental health over low production costs, and products replacing single-use plastics continue trending, perhaps global plastic waste output will finally start to decrease.
Our plastics problem will require continued massive coordinated effort and intentional action — from shoppers consistently purchasing low-waste options to CEOs making sustainability a key tenet of corporate social responsibility programs.
Companies and innovators are clearly working toward a vision of a cleaner, happier planet. Continued growth in the market for alternatives to conventional plastic products will only help that vision become reality. Only time will tell if both the business and consumer sides of commerce will make enough of a commitment to reducing plastic waste, but the stakes are high — the health of earth’s animals, humans, and ecosystems hangs in the balance.