How an Indian Architect is Sucking Carbon Emissions Out of the Air and Turning it into Stylish Tiles

An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Since Sidnal says that India is in need of maintaining the world’s third largest housing industry, his sustainable tile recipe can help meet the industry demand for building materials in an eco-friendly way.

(WATCH the Great Big Story video below)

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Startup in Uganda Recycles Plastic Bottles into PPE Face Shields For Hospitals

Killing two birds with one stone, two Ugandan entrepreneurs working to up-cycle plastic waste into building materials have altered their production to tackle the shortages of personal protective medical equipment (PPE) in hospitals dealing with the country’s COVID-19 patients.

After the government ordered all non-essential businesses closed, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom, co-founders of Takataka Plastics, continued working in their plastics processing facility.

But, instead of things like roof tiles, they began recycling plastic waste into face shields for medical workers.

After posting an image of their prototype on social media, the pair got a surprising call from a regional hospital asking for 10 face shields because they didn’t have enough.

Using locally-sourced moulds for molten plastic, the two finished the order and delivered them, before getting a call later in the afternoon from the very same hospital asking for more because “the first ones worked out so well for them,” Okwoko, 29, told Reuters.

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PPE and Plastic Recycling

PPE shortages have occurred world-wide, and Ugandan hospitals are are no exception, but Takataka Plastics has, so far, made 1,200 face shields. Even more inspiring, the company’s staff of 14, includes six employees who were homeless, jobless youth.

Around 500 of the shields have been sold to NGOs and privately-managed health facilities at a low cost and the other 700 were donated to public hospitals.

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Takataka hopes to build upon the success of the face shields and expand its operations into a more appropriate plastic processing and recycling facility. Currently their location can reduce around 132 pounds (60 kgs) of plastic per-day, but they are aiming to establish a monthly capacity of 9 metric tons.

Uganda sees hundreds of tons of plastic thrown away annually, and their innovative solution to the PPE crisis has pushed these entrepreneurs to dream bigger.

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Newly-Developed Enzyme That Breaks Down Plastic Bottles in Hours is On Track to Change the Recycling Game

Utilizing an enzyme found within composted leaves, scientists are now breaking down plastic all the way into a recyclable form in a matter of hours.

Carbios, the French company responsible for the breakthrough, is already collaborating with Pepsi and L’Oréal to unleash industrial market-scale production of the new substance within five years.

“We are the first company to bring this technology on the market,” the deputy chief executive at Carbios, Martin Stephan, told The Guardian. “Our goal is to be up and running by 2024–2025, at large industrial scale.”

Their discovery, which sources described as a major advance, joins an arsenal of solutions for plastic pollution control that have appeared over the last decade.

Just like Boyan Slat who took on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the bracelet folks at 4Ocean who took on the problem of ocean pollution in rivers, the scientists from the University of Toulouse are applying their breakthrough to another part of the problem—the recycling of plastic.

LOOK: Company Collects 80% of City’s Recyclable Plastics and Turns It All into Lumber

Plastic isn’t straightforward to recycle. There are common varieties of plastic made from multiple layers of different esters, each one requiring different equipment or temperature to breakdown. And, there are a lot of plastic esters that could be recycled but aren’t because the market value for the recycled material is so low it can’t financially sustain the operation.

In the scientist’s paper published in Nature, they detail how poly(ethylene terephthalate) PET, the most common polyester plastic, loses much of its mechanical utility when heated for recycling. Therefore, creating new material is preferred, and PET waste continues to accumulate.

Their new enzyme achieves a minimum of 90% de-polymerization in just 10 hours, meaning that the polymers—large complex particles, become monomers—small single particles in less than a day, and perhaps even more amazing, end up as biologically depolymerized plastic that can actually be reused to create things like plastic bottles.

LOOK: Cameroon Man Uses Wasted Plastic Bottles to Build Canoes for Fishermen in Need

While manufacturing plastic bottles from recycled PET made by this enzyme would cost about 4% of the amount needed to make new bottles from fresh petroleum, the recycling infrastructure, including the grounding up and heating of the plastic bottles before the enzyme is added would still make it more expensive in the end.

Nevertheless, the future is bright for this technology. Co-enzymes could be synthesized, companies could produce more inexpensive recycling infrastructure—both of which could finally bring down the cost of producing recycled plastic goods.

Carbios has also begun tackling the normally unrecyclable plastic film problem. In an alliance with several other European companies under the name Carbiolice, they demonstrated a plastic film last year that can be compostable in home or municipal compost piles. Their objective will be to address the markets of plastic films and single-use bags—and later on, rigid packaging and disposable tableware.

“These milestones reinforce our ambition to offer the market circular economy solutions that are both competitive and eco-friendly, and which will revolutionize the end of life for plastics and textiles.”

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In Just 2 Years, Lithuania Steals The Crown For Best European Recycler By Using an Innovative Return Program

The small country of Lithuania is making big strides towards creating a seamless circular economy where each and every water bottle and aluminum tuna can is recycled and turned into an identical successor.

And, in two years they already have a recycling rate for plastic packaging of 74%—the highest of any European country, and 44% higher than the EU average.

They also reached a milestone of 91.9% for all bottles and cans after the introduction of a deposit-refund scheme for plastic, aluminum, and glass food and beverage containers—and the program is remarkably simple.

When the consumer buys a product packaged in a returnable recyclable container, they pay a €0.10 tax which is held in trust until the consumer returns the packaging to a special reverse-vending machine, whereupon the ten cents is repaid.

Any store that chooses to sell grocery items in designated recyclable containers are provided with reverse vending machines to place either inside the store or outdoors. Consumers are paid in vouchers that can be redeemed in store as cash or credit toward their shopping bill, which brings additional foot traffic into stores.

LOOK: German Supermarket Saves Over 2,000 Tons of Food By Reselling Items Other Stores Won’t

The return rate for beverage containers reached a whopping 91.9% by the end of 2017.

USAD, the Lithuanian non-profit that designed the system, set a goal for a 55% return rate in 2016 but managed to reach 74.3% by the end of only one year—and people were mostly pleased with the system by the closing of 2017.

According to the European Union’s Circular Economy platform, 97% of the country’s consumers were satisfied with the deposit-return system, which has since collected over 2 billion returns and 56,000 tons of material since its deployment in 2016, a figure of mass equal to 6 Eiffel Towers.

File photo by Mr. Tin DC, CC

“We feel an obligation to take care of our country, society and nature. That is why we wanted to design a deposit return system that would work as well as possible for citizens, producers, importers and traders,” states Saulius Galadauskas, Chairman of USAD as well as Head of the Lithuanian Brewers Association.

“We can be proud of our deposit return system, which brings us closer to the Lithuania we want to see—a cleaner, more beautiful and more modern country.”

MORE: Revolutionary New Recycling Method for Plastic and Waste is Solving Two Problems With One Stream

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Old Electric Vehicle Batteries Can Be Recycled into New Sources of Energy –Even Used to Power 7-11 Stores

An increase in the sale and use of electric vehicles (EVs) is vital for many governments to reach their stated CO2 reduction targets, however if special regard is not quickly given to advancing the technology in recycling the battery packs of these EVs, our landfills could be overrun.

Looking for a solution to the battery waste problem, a study published in Nature by University of Birmingham researchers presents this sticky situation alongside some innovative ways to help combat it. For example, stations of retired EV batteries can be used to reinforce unstable grid networks in developing countries, or used to power things at home.

The study explains that, like the batteries in older mobile phones, an EV battery at the end of its automobile life could still maintain 80% operating capacity and could be easily repurposed for jobs elsewhere in society.

Even now, Toyota, producer of the Prius—one of the most, if not the most, successful hybrid cars in history—has joined forces with 7-11 stores in Japan to expand the integration of the electric vehicle byproducts into Japanese society.

Their project, in line with the latest recommendations from the Birmingham researchers, aims to utilize banks of expended EV batteries from Toyota cars in conjunction with solar panels to power 7-11 stores, while new fuel-cell EVs powered by hydrogen will be serving as the distribution fleet for the legendary convenience store chain.

RELATED: Scientists Develop New Material to Make Lithium Ion Batteries Self-Healing and Easily Recyclable

Meanwhile, we can extract minerals from batteries, while at the same time avoiding the environmentally-damaging mining practices that use a lot of water.

Nissan NV200 by Kārlis-Dambrāns, CC license

“Electric vehicles may prove to be a valuable secondary resource for critical materials, and it has been argued that high cobalt-content batteries should be recycled immediately to bolster cobalt supplies”, the study says.

Another mineral present in EV batteries, lithium, is one of the most critical minerals for building batteries for our portable devices and key electronic components in society like video processors and microchips.

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To gather merely one ton of lithium requires the mining of 250 tons of the mineral ore spodumene, or 750 tons of mineral-rich brine. Therefore extracting lithium from car batteries (since estimates suggest that we only need 256 used EV batteries to produce 1 ton of lithium) can avoid this water-intensive carbon-intensive method of production.

In 2017, the worldwide sales of electric cars exceeded 1 million units for the first time. Market research group Deloitte reported that this figure doubled during 2018, and is close to doubling again, from 2 million to 4 million by the end of 2020.

Those are big secondary resources for minerals, which could negate the need for mining many additional tons in order to power the world we love.

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Apple and Pear Cores Turned Into Chemical-Free Sweetener as an Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar

A Dutch company aptly-called Fooditive, is turning pear and apple cores, as well as bruised and discarded fruit from producers and suppliers into a chemical-free, calorie-free, sugar substitute.

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, though legal for use in food and beverages for decades in the United States and elsewhere, are now not only emerging as a potential genotoxin (a poisonous substance which damages DNA), but also as an environmental pollutant since it is not entirely absorbed by our bodies and can travel all the way through our water treatment systems and back into groundwater sources.

Refined cane sugar has its own problems, playing a role in the global skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity since the 1950s. Sweeteners and syrups made from corn have much the same effect on our bodies, while also contributing massively to keeping afloat the problematic, uncompetitive American system of agriculture, farm subsidies, and lobbying.

Dutch food scientist Moayad Abushokhedim uses a natural fermentation process to extract fructose from third-rate fruits collected from suppliers and turns it into a calorie-free sweetener that contributes to Rotterdam’s goal of a circular economy by 2030.

RELATED: 30,000 Pounds of Leftover Super Bowl Food Saved From Landfill and Donated to Charity

According to the company’s website where you can see a detailed ingredients list, he plans to make Fooditive Sweetners available in powder, liquid, and syrup forms. There is no information yet on how to purchase.

Apart from their sweetener, Fooditive also has a solution for artificial preservatives, creating natural ones from carrot waste, and he counters harmful emulsifiers with potato extracts.

Right now, the company is in the process of expanding their operations to try and get Fooditive products like their sweeteners and preservatives into commercial Dutch foodstuffs.

CHECK OUT: German Supermarket Saves Over 2,000 Tons of Food By Reselling Items Other Stores Won’t

“Our products really provide the food and beverage producers with the ability to have a clean label, a green label, and show people what’s in their food,” said Gijs Gieles, Fooditive spokesperson to Fast Company.

These kinds of recycling applications are becoming more and more common in Europe, especially since France passed a law in 2016 forcing supermarkets to recycle, compost, or donate as much of their outgoing or expired stock as possible. Other countries like Germany began to create similar legislation, and a German supermarket SirPlus Rescue Market specializes in discarded, expired, or unwanted packaged foods and produce.

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As Fur is Phased Out of Fashion, More Than 200 Donated Fur Coats Are Handed Out to Afghanis in Need

Photo by Life for Relief and Development

As the fashion industry continues to phase out the use of animal fur, more and more people are cleansing their closets of all their rabbit, fox, and mink furs.

Rather than let those fur coats go to waste, however, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is putting them to good use by donating them to Afghani people in need.

Last week, PETA partnered with Life for Relief and Development to hand out more than 200 donated fur coats to the people of Kabul.

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With temperatures dipping well below freezing, the coats are expected to offer some much-needed warmth to the men, women, and children living in poverty in the capital city of Afghanistan.

“Nothing can bring back the rabbits, minks, and foxes … but the coats that they died for can at least be used for good,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA encourages everyone to donate their fur or fur-trimmed coats to help those who have but few options in life—the only people with any excuse to wear them.”

Photo by PETA

Life for Relief and Development CEO Dr. Hany Saqr added: “With all of those that are less fortunate around the world, we at Life are honored to be able to work with PETA to give warmth during the harsh winter to those in need.”

This is not the first time that animal fur has been used to warm the less fortunate; back in November 2018, PETA and Life for Relief handed out 280 coats to Syrian refugees who had fled to Iraq.

PETA’s fur donation program also sends unwanted coats to homeless shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers so they can be used as bedding for orphaned animals.

If you want to donate one of your own fur coats, you can visit the organization’s website to learn more.

(WATCH the video below)

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German Supermarket Saves Over 2,000 Tons of Food By Reselling Items Other Stores Won’t

A Berlin supermarket is tackling the challenge of reducing food waste by reselling all of the unattractive products that other grocery stores refuse to carry.

Sirplus Rettermarkt in Berlin Steglitz. Photo by Sirplus.

The SirPlus grocery store stocks their shelves with foodstuffs and produce that is expired, near to expired, misshapen, or just a bit odd, and offers it to shoppers for up to 80% less than the regular supermarket prices.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown out or wasted every year across the world. This amounts to one third of all food produced worldwide, at the same time as trash landfills are filling rapidly.

The majority of the global waste comes from Europe and North America, with the average European wasting 210 to 254 pounds (95 to 115 kilograms) of food every year.

RELATED: Instead of Dumping Rejected Food Shipments into Landfills, Truckers Are Donating Them to Local Charities

Some of the food rejected by other supermarkets, restaurants, or wholesalers—which SirPlus quality assurance specialist Timo Schmitt and his team inspect every day—is discarded because of something as little as a cucumber that has grown at a 90-degree angle, or a jar of jam that is mislabeled.

Others, like items past their expiry date, are carefully inspected to ensure that it is safe to eat. “We check smell, taste, consistency and packaging,” Schmitt told Klaus Sieg, a Hamburg journalist. “If in doubt, we call in a laboratory.”

As long as food has been deemed safe to eat and the customer understands the risks inherent in what they are purchasing, expired biscuits or even castaway yogurt and meat is legal to sell under German law.

Sirplus founders Martin Scott and Raphael Fellmer.

“Suppliers such as farmers, […] wholesalers [and] retailers have a strong economic incentive to partner with us,” explain the founders of SirPlus in an interview in 2017. “When buying or trading their surplus via our marketplace […] we’re saving them significant disposal costs, while providing a new revenue source”.

France passed a law four years ago that supermarkets must not throw away food that has reached its sell-by date. This could mean donating to food banks, composting it, or recycling it for use in pet food or biofuel—but all of the above require larger operational expenses than simply selling it.

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Fellmer and Schott allow producers and distributors to save storage and disposal costs by selling or donating their food to SirPlus, which if their own storage space can’t accommodate, will be offered for free to NGOs.

In 2019, SirPlus saved 2000 tons of food (4.4 million pounds). The company also has bold plans for 2020 and wants to continue opening stores in Berlin while expanding into other cities, to launch their own product line with the SirPlus label made specifically from food that’s been rescued, and create an online platform that allows for home grocery delivery—all to distribute the increasingly larger amounts of donated food coming SirPlus’ way, which includes one million croissants last year.

Sirplus produce.

They also have a subscription service called the “Retterbox” (Rescue Box) containing a random assortment of quality-controlled products that have been saved from the dumpster and delivered to your house on a monthly basis with free shipping throughout Germany.

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Revolutionary New Recycling Method for Plastic and Waste is Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Carbon capturing and carbon sequestering, meaning the uptake and storage of CO2 molecules in a solid object, like a building or a tree which it can’t escape from, is one of the many tools for entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and businessmen, who want to do their part to combat the climate crisis.

Similarly, a startup working in Israel is eradicating one environmental toxin by placing it inside of another. UBQ Materials is taking household waste that would normally end up in landfills, and embedding it in liquefied recycled plastic to create “a thermoplastic, composite, bio-based, sustainable, climate-positive material”.

The trash is sorted, passed over a magnet to remove metals, before being dried and shredded into a kind of trash-confetti. It’s then added to plastic that’s ready for recycling and melted together before finally being dried and chopped into little pellets.

The resulting pellets can be easily shipped out and used in various manufacturing processes like injection molding and composite brick-making. Dye can be added at any point along the way to ensure the customer can have plastic of any color he desires.

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The company’s founders were so confidant that the science behind their revolutionary recycling process would prove successful they commissioned Swiss environmental consulting firm Quantis to perform an analysis on just how green their operation was.

Quantis found that substituting a ton of UBQ’s pellets for the same amount of polypropylene saves the equivalent of about 15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, making it the most sustainable thermoplastic material on earth.

The concept of taking landfill-bound trash, which would generate harmful greenhouse-methane gas, and encasing it inside recycled plastic can be traced back, according to The Post, to an Israeli military man who thought that by mixing mud from the polluted Kishon River with plastic he might help the river recover. This idea never worked, but encasing environmentally-damaging substances in plastic that would then be used to make other materials and products and thereby ensuring it doesn’t have a chance to pollute (or further complicate the climate of) our planet, was a core concept which wasn’t abandoned.

MORE: Rather Than Plastic or Bird Feathers, These Winter Coats Are Filled With Wildflowers to Help Butterfly Habitats

Generating a $50 million dollar fortune as a hummus food mogul, Rabbi Yehuda Pearl has helped the company go from a bankrupt idea to the brink of international acclaim and wealth through $3.5 million in slow savvy investing and R&D. UBQ, short for Ubiquitous. is already selling its thermoplastic composite plastic granule to Plasgad, an Israeli company that manufactures pallets, crates, and recycling bins—2,000 of which are on their way to the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.

The UBQ facility on the Tze’elim Kibbutz can produce about one ton of their special material in an hour, resulting in between 5,000 and 7,000 tons produced annually. The company’s success is leading to a new facility that will produce 100,000 tons annually.

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Students Are Returning to Indian School After It Transformed Two Old Train Cars into Vibrant Classrooms

SWNS

This school is being hailed as one of the first in the world to start improving attendance rates by transforming old train cars into classrooms.

SWNS

The government-run Ashokapuram Primary School noticed student numbers were dropping, and they suspected it was due to a lack of properly permanent school buildings.

SWNS

The school then teamed up with the South Western Railways company to begin using two old train carriages deemed unfit for railway usage.

SWNS

The vibrant carriages now have stairways, brightly painted exteriors, desks, fans, lights, and colorful drawings on the walls.

SWNS

“The coaches, which were officially declared unfit for railway use, were renovated. At present, the school has 60 students from standard 1st [grade] to 7th,” said a spokesman for South Western Railways. “Many come from families below the poverty line.

SWNS

The new classrooms have managed to attract a new batch of students to attend regular classes—and teachers in Mysore in Karnataka, India, said student attendance numbers are now up again thanks to the quirky new classrooms, which cost just £700 ($915) for the pair.

SWNS

(WATCH the classrooms in action in the video below)

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Disaster Breeds Invention: Philippine Residents Use Volcanic Ash to Repair Damaged Buildings

While a volcanic eruption doesn’t conjure many reasons for celebration, residents of Binan, Philippines have utilized the immense destructive power of nature and turned it into an unorthodox opportunity.

Tens of thousands of grey bricks, produced with the very ash from the recent eruption as well as cement and discarded plastic have been made for the purpose of repairing the parts of the city damaged by the eruption on January 12th, providing a short economic stimulus, and even reducing amounts of plastic in the city’s landfills.

After the Taal volcano erupted last week on the island of Luzon, the mayor of the city of Binan asked residents to collect the fine grey ash deposited all around the city by Taal and place it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory.

LOOK: Company Collects 80% of City’s Recyclable Plastics and Turns It All into Lumber

“Instead of just piling up the ashfall somewhere, we are able to turn it into something useful. And it includes plastics, too,” said city environmental officer Rodelio Lee, according to DW.

So far, 5,000 bricks are being produced per day, all of which contain some plastic waste in addition to the ash. In the midst of a natural disaster, Binan has essentially created a massive recycling opportunity.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” city Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila told Reuters.

MORE: World’s First Community of 3D Printed Homes is Set to House Mexico’s Poorest Families

“What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” he said, adding that the proceeds would be donated to residents affected by the volcano.

Positioned on the Pacific Ring of Fire, communities in the Philippines are often under threat from erupting volcanoes, with Taal being one of the most formidable in the region.

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Photo by Reuters

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Company Collects 80% of City’s Recyclable Plastics and Turns It All into Lumber

Photos by Mike Chassie

This trailblazing Canadian company is building a new standard for sustainability since they started recycling the bulk of their municipal plastic waste into lumber.

Roughly 80% of the plastic recyclables collected throughout Halifax, Nova Scotia are now being processed by Goodwood Plastic Products Ltd so they can be turned into building blocks.

The plastic lumber can be drilled, nailed, glued, and handled the same way as wooden lumber—but without any of the same deterioration.

The other 20% of municipal plastics are reportedly being sent to other Canadian recycling markets, but Halifax Solid Waste Division Manager Andrew Philopoulos says that provincial legislators are particularly grateful for Goodwood’s initiative.

WATCH: Dutch Guy Famous for Cleaning Up Pacific Garbage Patch is Now Clearing the World’s Rivers Too

“We are very, very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to have that local company taking the material,” he told CBC’s Information Morning. “Without them, I think we would find it challenging to find a market for a lot of the plastic packaging that we are collecting.”

Goodwood also made a name for themselves back in December when they partnered with a Sobeys grocery store in order to create one of the nation’s first parking lots made entirely out of post-consumer plastics saved from local landfills.

Although the bulk of Goodwood’s recycled plastic comes from single-use bags, they also process food jars and other common consumer packaging.

LOOK: Cameroon Man Uses Wasted Plastic Bottles to Build Canoes for Fishermen in Need

Thus far, CBC says that the lumber has been used to make everything from picnic tables and park benches to agricultural posting and guardrail structures—and Goodwood vice president Mike Chassie says he hopes their business model will inspire other regions to launch similar ventures.

“We can take this business—the knowledge and our skills—and we can export it and take it to other places,” he told the news outlet. “Post-consumer plastic is not going away, so we need to continue to find ways to give it a new life so it becomes a resource, instead of a waste.”

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