Can plastic made from seaweed solve ocean pollution?
CTVNews.ca's Brooklyn Neustaeter, with a report from CTV News' Vanessa Lee
Published Tuesday, April 2, 2019 6:57AM EDT
Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University have created a biodegradable plastic, using seaweed polymers, that they hope will help solve the problem of ocean pollution.
While traditional plastic is made from petroleum products that do not disintegrate, Dr. Alexander Golberg of the Porter School of Environmental Studies say seaweed-based bioplastic is a sustainable alternative.
"Seaweeds are marine organisms which we can grow in the sea without any use of arable land and drinking water," said Golberg in an interview. "That's why our process is very different."
Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada reports that Canadians use nearly 3 billion plastic bags each year (or 200 per capita) with less than 11 per cent being recycled.
According to Plastic Oceans, more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into oceans annually.
Tel Aviv University School of Chemistry professor Michael Gozin says plastic made out of seaweed could be a "revolutionary product with a really low cost" that could help the environment and save wildlife.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), nearly 3 million marine mammals and seabirds have trash-related deaths each year, often mistaking plastic for food or becoming entangled in plastic products.
An 8-metre sperm whale was found dead off the coast of Sardinia last week with 48.5 pounds of plastic in its belly, including plates, shopping bags and corrugated tubing.
Canadian environmentalists are cautiously optimistic about the use of seaweed as a plastic alternative.
"We just have to pay attention to not create another problem," said Karel Menard, the executive director of the Quebec Coalition for Ecological Waste Management. Menard explained in an interview with CTV News' Vanessa Lee that if manufacturers create one billion plastic bottles using seaweed, oceans may eventually be depleted of the algae.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University are still trying to determine how long the seaweed would take to decompose outside a marine environment.
As scientists continue to explore alternatives, more countries and restaurants are taking steps to use less plastic products.
In Canada, the Ontario government is currently weighing a ban on single-use plastics as part of a broader strategy to send less waste to landfills, while A&W eliminated plastic straws at its Canadian restaurants in 2018.
The federal government says it is taking practical steps that are consistent with the Greening Government Strategy to reduce its use of plastic including eliminating single-use plastics in government operations.
Canada's environment ministers want to reduce the total amount of waste Canada throws out by 30 per cent come 2030 and by 2040, they want to cut the quantity by 50 per cent.