Podcast – In conversation with Dr Sandro Demaio

dr-sandro-demaio-81519-2…talking with Dr Sandro Demaio the CEO of EAT about the nutritional issues surrounding alternative protein choices.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Sandro Demaio

 

 

Podcast – In conversation with Paul Guerra

… talking with the CEO of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, about hosting Global Table at Melbourne Showgrounds and its journey from Seeds&Chips in Milan.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Paul Guerra

Podcast – In conversation with Paul Wood

…talking with Paul Wood the Director of Dairy Australia, about protein options that recognise the importance of sustainably and ethically produced Australian beef and its potential in global mhttps://anchor.fm/food-futurists/episodes/Carbon-neutral-meat—in-conversation-with-Paul-Wood-e858c6/a-atsmsuarkets.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Paul Wood

Podcast – In conversation with Thomas King

..talking with Thomas King, the CEO of Food Frontier about alternative protein options, the future global market for plant-based protein products and food sustainability.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Thomas King

Feature image Thomas King at Global Table Seeds & Chips 2019 Australia

What exactly is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

It’s basically a big patch of floating rubbish in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but what is it made of and how did it get there?

One of the key problems with plastics is that they take a long time to break down and decompose naturally. Plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills, including plastic bags which take 10-1000 years, and plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.

This giant patch of floating plastic waste covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometres, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

With so much plastic hanging around for long periods of time it is only inevitable that some makes its way into our water ways and oceans, causing big problems. It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers.  By the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

More than half of this plastic is less dense than the water, meaning that it will not sink once it enters the sea. The stronger, more buoyant plastics can transported 1000s of kilometres. They persist floating in the oceans, transported by sea currents and finally accumulate in what are known as offshore ‘plastic accumulation zones’.

file-20190402-177196-jaxuy6There are four of these zones in each of the world’s main oceans (although not the Indian Ocean), and the largest is located halfway between Hawaii and California, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This giant patch of floating plastic waste covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometres, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

file-20190415-76853-1hbn7sv

Once plastics enter a plastic accumulation zone they are unlikely to leave the area until they degrade into smaller microplastics under the effects of sun, waves and marine life.

But let’s be clear that breaking down is not biodegradation or dissolving, and microplastics continue to pose a significant problem to marine wildlife including fish.

Turtle-Eating-Plastic_Shutterstock
Shutterstock

It is projected that by 2050, 99% of all sea bird species will have ingested plastic, where mortality rates can be “up to” 50%. And, already, research has shown microplastic in sea salt, 94% of U.S. tap water, and shellfish.

Scientists at the UGA New Materials Institute conducted a new study which discovered microplastics particles smaller than dust or powdered sugar inside baby sea turtles. Of the turtles studied in this research, 100% were found to have eaten plastic. These baby sea turtles were likely dying due to ingested plastic pollution, and threatens the species’ survival.

Doesn’t sound too good does it – luckily we have choices, and there are some things we can do reduce and change our use and dependancy on plastics use and production.

Featured image – THE OCEAN CLEANUP – It’s estimated that between 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year.

Podcast – In conversation with Jim Mullan

…talking with the CEO of SecondBite about tackling food insecurity and waste through food rescue programs in Australia

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Jim Mullan

Plastic futures

Our love affair with plastic seems to know no bounds and isn’t stopping.

The first plastic, bakelite, was produced in 1907 and since then the global plastics industry has exploded, now producing 300 million tons a year. This astonishing growth has outpaced almost all other manufactured materials, but it has also overtaken our ability to deal with it. In other words, the plastic garbage problem is bad and getting worse, with the World Bank forecasting that plastic waste will grow by 70 percent in the next 30 years.

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Cumulative plastic waste generation and disposal (Science mag – http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782)

The type of plastic we produce is also problematic. 50% of plastics are single-use and 42% are for packaging.

One of the key problems with plastics is that they take a long time to break down naturally. Plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfill.

With so much plastic hanging around for long periods it’s only inevitable that some makes its way into our water courses and oceans to reek environmental havoc.

 

Outraged by the environmental impact of single use plastics and its symbolism of our throwaway society, a plethora of governments, cities and businesses have now banned (or plan to) a variety of single use plastics (including Seattle, Starbucks, McDonalds, Alaskan Airlines).

And even the humble straw has become persona non grata in all discerning social circles.

But of the eight million tons of plastic flowing into our oceans every year, straws comprise just 0.025 percent of that. So we are going to have to do more than just banning straws if we want to address the environmental issues around plastics.

So practically what can we do about it – well, we can recycle, reuse and compost.

And given the level of consumer concern around plastic packaging (73% of customers are concerned about plastic waste) there is also a huge market opportunity that is growing around plastic free solutions.

Recycle

We can just increase our efforts to recycle plastics – right? Wrong!

If the aluminium can is the world’s perfect recyclable container, plastic is the opposite. Aluminium can be recycled innumerable times.  Plastics on the other hand can be recycled only a limited number of times and are difficult to recycle.

Currently only 9% of plastics are recycled, with 12% being incinerated and a massive 79% going into landfill.

Each variety of plastic requires a different recycling process, as the plastics are made from thousands of different formulas, and food packaging in particular is problematic with plastic films very difficult to recycle. Plastic waste also needs sorting, usually by hand, and is very easily contaminated.

Currently only 9% of plastics are recycled, with 12% being incinerated and a massive 79% going into landfill.  And the proportion of recycled plastics is likely to decline in the future.

Up until recently China has had a seemingly insatiable appetite for plastic waste, and imported 70 percent of the world’s total waste since 1992, a $200 billion global recycling industry. The problem now is that as of the 1st January 2018, China has refused to import most recyclable materials, claiming materials exceed acceptable contamination levels.

In terms of reuse and moving away from plastic packaging, companies that produce and sell food are most concerned about food safety and shelf life issues.

This has backed up the flow of disposed plastics, causing serious problems for local waste management companies and councils around the world, including here in Australia. Whilst other SE Asian countries (Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia) are now taking up the slack (at least for now), the global capacity to recycle plastic is massively reduced and it is also an opportunity to change the way we do things.

Options for improved and efficient recycling of plastics, particularly food wrappers in producer countries, need to be developed, although will need to be an efficient bulk handling operation.

But increasingly recycling can’t be the only solution.

Reuse

How about increasing the reuse of plastics?

In terms of reuse and moving away from plastic packaging, companies that produce and sell food are most concerned about food safety and shelf life issues.

At the recent Innovations in Food Safety, Traceability and Processing Technology Forum in Melbourne, Lubna Edwards, Global Sustainability Director for Klockner Pentaplast highlighted that ‘for most packaging companies, its still about functionality over sustainability’.

Jacqui-Good
Jacqui Good of local South Australian producers Thistle Be Good – she uses containers that can be reused – ‘It’s a small cost offset to get better packaging that meets the needs of keeping products safe, but that can also be used for long term storage and safety’.

Jacqui Good, owner of Thistle Be Good, supports this position. She says ‘the most important quality of food packaging is its shelf stability – which may need to be up to 24 months – but customers also like to see the product’.

Whilst Jacqui understands the environmental issues around plastics, she says ‘over the last 17 years of operation, I’ve only had 3 enquires about packaging recycling from customers’, and so she uses containers that can be reused. ‘It’s a small cost offset to get better packaging that meets the needs of keeping products safe, but that can also be used for long term storage and safety’.

Jacqui is no stranger to the environmental cause and lives in an ecovillage. ‘But there is a large amount of conflicting information out there on what the best strategy is, and government, industry and consumer groups have a responsibility to help consumers and producers find a way through to plot a more sustainable future’.

Some shops are moving towards more extreme solutions – going plastic free and encouraging customers to forsake plastic packaging and use containers at home (plastic or glass) for long term storage of purchased items.

Very much returning to a pre-packaging time of buying what you need, transporting in paper or reusable contains, and storing at home in specific jars and containers designed for long term storage. Examples include the Dutch chain Ekoplaza in Amsterdam which has a plastic packaging free aisle, and Thornton Budgens in Belsize Park, London, which has gone completely plastic free.

In terms of reusing plastic packaging, new high value products are being created from what would otherwise be waste. Several companies that incorporate plastic waste into road tarmac have emerged recently and promote their environmental credentials. MacRebur, a UK based start up, boasts that for each km of road laid using their products, the equivalent weight of 684,000 bottles or 1.8 million single use plastic bags are reused. 1 tonne of tarmac mix contains the equivalent of 80,000 plastic bottles. MacRebur’s CEO, Toby McCartney, also points out that reuse of plastics in this way also reduces fossil fuel usage, leading to a reduction in carbon footprint and helps foster a circular economy.

And a new tarmac product produced by Melbourne-based start up, Close the Loop, boasts even higher environmental credentials, reusing 530,000 plastic bags, more than 12,000 recycled printer cartridges and 168,000 glass bottles to pave a 300-metre stretch of road.

With new products entering this market we are seeing innovation turn the plastic problem into profit.

Biodegradable solutions

But in the end, the days of plastic packaging may be limited, and driven to an early grave by a new green economy.

The size of the flexible packaging market is estimated at $102B (Source: Smithers Pira) and has a compound annual growth rate of 4.4%. Increasingly industry leaders in this sector are looking for new packaging solutions that won’t associate their product with the environmental problems of old-school plastic packaging.

And new companies are popping up to fill the void.

Tipa, an Israel based start up I visited last year, promotes itself as the world’s first developer of high-end fully compostable flexible packaging. ‘Tipa’s bioplastics emulate the properties of conventional plastics but are 100% compostable and decompose in less than 6 months’, says Julia Schifter, VP Strategy Analysis. ‘Our products are being used for fresh produce, snack food, dry goods, coffee beans, sachets, meat, super food, tea, bakery, zipper bags, apparel and magazines’.

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Kimberly Bolton, CEO Carapac, in the Startup Alley at EvokeAg in Melbourne earlier this year

Another – Australian based – company, Carapac, has developed a sustainable, durable and home compostable packaging out of seafood shell waste (prawns, lobsters, crabs). ‘The advantage of our product is that it can be broken down in 3-6 weeks when home composted’ says CEO Kimberly Bolton. ‘Our product also helps extend product shelf life with its natural anti-fungal properties, boosts soil quality when composted, and will simply dissolve if it makes its way into the ocean’

So where there is a will there is a way.

Environment problems can become solutions and profit once, the problem is recognised, old ways of doing things are rethought and innovation takes over.

 

Featured image: Carapac website https://carapac.co

Podcast – In conversation with Kylie Porter

…talking with the Executive Director Kylie Porter of Global Compact Network Australia, about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and their support and uptake here in Australia.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Kylie Porter

Podcast – In conversation with Matt Pryor

…talking with Matthew Pryor, Partner of AgThentic, about AgTech opportunities and investment and Australia’s place in this massive global market.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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Matt Pryor

Podcast – In conversation with Marco Gualtieri

… talking to the Founder and Chairman of Seeds&Chips Marco Gualtieri about the unique and energising format of Seeds&Chips and its journey from Milan to Global Table Melbourne Australia.

This episode produced in partnership with The University of Adelaide during the 2019 Global Table Melbourne Australia, Seeds&Chips.

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In Conversatiuon with Marco Gualtieri-2