Rio+20 Talks Plasticity and Our Future

Right now, the largest global conference ever is taking place at Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. On June 21 environmentalists, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, diplomats and activists will gather to discuss one toxic pollutant – in all its shapes and sizes – that is amassing and leaking into our waterways, soils and our bodies: plastics.

The Rio+20 Plasticity Rio ‘12 is a forum designed as an action and solutions oriented event. Ignited by the urgency of the growing plastic pollution in our world’s oceans, the forum will highlight impact of plastic consumption on marine life (see “Discarded but not Degraded: What Will the Aliens Think When They Find Our Plastic Crap) The sponsors aim to reframe the focus of plastic as a material resource to be innovated at every stage of design, use, reuse and recycling.

Sidelining the discussion on our future (rolling in) plastic waste is “Capturing Gold” – a competition to bring together environmentalists and entrepreneurs to creatively reconceive PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles back into the usable product system. The challenge is to 1) design a system for collecting PET en masse and transporting the material back to the manufacturer for 2) reuse in an innovative and valuable way, with consideration for the cultural and regional context of use. The winning idea will be exhibited at Plasticity.

While it may be a resource, in that it is everywhere, plastic is gaining worldwide attention because of its sheer waste volume and toxic longevity. The huge lapse in infrastructure for global plastic recycling – waste collection, processing and reusable product marketing – is landing the bulk of plastic waste in landfill. Hence the technology and design facet is crucial for mitigating the exposure to plastic toxins for the health of our ecological systems and our communities.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: While Rio+20’s Plasticity Forum may bear fruits for the third, let’s remember that the first is the most immediate and outstanding component – reduce plastic use and consume less!