“Is using plastics bad? What do we do with the wastes? And can we turn a pollution crisis into an opportunity? This talk steps back from the established assumptions, and aims to present a fresh perspective by examining similarities to how trees generated vast amount of “wastes” throughout the prehistorical eons and how the biosphere’s innovators turned such wastes into valuable resources. The talk goes on to discuss how breaking down waste plastics is not only feasible but actually thermodynamically favorable from a scientific perspective. And it follows with a concrete example of how our team is developing technology to turn today’s “non-recyclable” plastics into an asphalt additive. When scaled such “Plastic to Asphalt” technology delivers a “green discount” to alternatives and eliminates emissions from incineration naturally by market forces.
Neither industrialization nor consumerism is fundamentally bad, at their core they are an expression of human ingenuity in a resource-limited environment. However innovation is the ultimate driving force for change. By bringing new options that make as much economical sense as environmental sense the market will find its way to embrace change, from which we achieve economies of scale and achieve long term sustainability. And instead of incrementally reducing a “green premium”, we need talented young people to be working on creative interdisciplinary ideas that generate “green discounts” in key sectors, which makes it possible to turn the climate crisis we face today into a controlled planetary transition.