As the threat from the coronavirus recedes, two of the more significant issues facing humanity remain. The global plastic problem and global warming have been making headlines for decades, yet the two crises continue to worsen.

The dangers of plastic and CO2 have been known for decades

Plastic pollution was first identified by scientists in the late 1960s. It has since proliferated with alarming rapidity, especially in the rivers and oceans, damaging and poisoning wildlife.

Alarmingly, as emerging economies in places like Africa and Asia develop, plastic will increase. Around 460 million tonnes of plastic were used in 2019, double the amount in 1999. This is set to double again by 2034.

Half of all plastic produced each year is single-use, and a study in 2021 found that 44% of plastic debris in rivers, oceans, and on shorelines were bags, bottles, and food packaging. Clearly, the problem needs to be tackled at the source, but a recent OECD found that only 9% of plastics are successfully recycled.

Similarly, the link between carbon emissions and temperatures was noted in the 1960s. However, in the 70s and 80s, international scientists from different fields began to prove the links between increased CO2 levels and global temperature rises.

Since 1970, CO2 emissions have risen by around 90%. The problem and its effects have been acknowledged internationally, but the rapid rise of highly populated coal-reliant countries like China and India exacerbates the problem.

However, they are not solely to blame - more established economies are also slow to adapt, with the top five emitting countries being China, the USA, India, Russia and Japan. The result has been that in 2021, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose 6% to reach their highest level of 36.3 billion tonnes.

Things are starting to change at a global level

Both problems have understandably received increasing attention with international agreements being developed. For example, at a recent UN Environment Assembly, 175 countries resolved to create a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.

Elsewhere, environmental groups and corporations are also pledging to reduce plastic. For example, the 3R Initiative, formed by Verra and BVRio - along with Danone, Veolia, Nestlé, Tetra Pak, Conservation International and South Pole. The Initiative provides numerous incentives for corporations to reduce their plastic footprints and decrease waste.

When it comes to emissions, at the end of last year, COP26 saw 197 countries sign the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to cut carbon footprints. Additionally, over 100 nations pledged to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. In 2020 alone, it is estimated that $503 billion was spent on decarbonization at all levels of industry.

Awareness of the need to reduce plastic waste and carbon footprints is altering behavior at all levels – from individuals to giant corporations. It is starting to make a difference, but many argue it is not fast enough.

Innovation is helping to turn the tide

The increase in recycling and renewables is starting to make a noticeable impact. Advances in alternative materials, improved efficiency of solar and wind farms, and the popularity of electric cars are making a difference.

Smaller, more innovative companies are also creating novel and transformative ways to solve these issues. A great example is Canadian-based Fusion One, which has developed a way to turn plastic into hydrogen.

“Our process helps tackle plastic waste and produces environmentally friendly hydrogen, which can be used as fuel,” Fusion One CEO Elliott Talbott explains.

“The world is finally waking up to the significant issues of plastic in the environment and climate change. It is reassuring to see everyone, from governments to individuals, agree on what needs to be done and for behaviors to start changing. However, as is often the case, it is all happening too slowly,” Talbott says.

“With plastic found at the top of Everest and the bottom of the Mariana Trench, there is clearly a problem. Yet we continue to produce more of it. At the same time, global average temperatures are rising, and extreme weather is becoming more commonplace. Something needs to be done now, and that is where we step in.”

Fusion One has developed a process that diverts curbside plastic from landfill and processes it in their ‘HydroPlas’ reactor. This converts waste to Synthesis Gas, which has a very high hydrogen content. Heat from the process is also recovered and used to generate power, which can be added to the grid.

“Hydrogen gas is a great source of clean energy,” Talbott says. “It can be used in individual fuel cells or power major transport infrastructure such as a city-wide bus network. The only emissions are water vapor.”

Due to its ability to produce energy without carbon, hydrogen has surged in demand, having already tripled since 1975. As industries aim for net-zero, that is predicted to rise 44% by 2030 and account for 12% of global energy by 2050.

“All countries are trying to reduce plastic waste and lower carbon emissions. Unfortunately, while renewable energy sources have come a long way, they aren’t quite there yet. Some are switching to less-polluting natural gas, but even that releases a lot of carbon, and, as recent events have shown, price fluctuations can be a significant factor. Hydrogen has a lot of advantages.

“The technology and processes we have developed at Fusion One turn a ubiquitous problem like plastic into clean fuel. But we are just one of a growing number of innovators working on solutions that tackle major problems facing humanity and the environment. Together, we can help make a genuine difference,” Talbott says.

The planet faces several significant issues, but plastic waste and carbon emissions are two of the most pressing. Although these problems have been known for over half a century, the dangers they pose are finally being acted upon. Recycling techniques and renewable energy have come a long way but aren’t enough for current requirements. Hopefully, technology and innovation will help us bridge that gap.

As the threat from the coronavirus recedes, two of the more significant issues facing humanity remain. The global plastic problem and global warming have been making headlines for decades, yet the two crises continue to worsen.

The dangers of plastic and CO2 have been known for decades

Plastic pollution was first identified by scientists in the late 1960s. It has since proliferated with alarming rapidity, especially in the rivers and oceans, damaging and poisoning wildlife.

Alarmingly, as emerging economies in places like Africa and Asia develop, plastic will increase. Around 460 million tonnes of plastic were used in 2019, double the amount in 1999. This is set to double again by 2034.

Half of all plastic produced each year is single-use, and a study in 2021 found that 44% of plastic debris in rivers, oceans, and on shorelines were bags, bottles, and food packaging. Clearly, the problem needs to be tackled at the source, but a recent OECD found that only 9% of plastics are successfully recycled.

Similarly, the link between carbon emissions and temperatures was noted in the 1960s. However, in the 70s and 80s, international scientists from different fields began to prove the links between increased CO2 levels and global temperature rises.

Since 1970, CO2 emissions have risen by around 90%. The problem and its effects have been acknowledged internationally, but the rapid rise of highly populated coal-reliant countries like China and India exacerbates the problem.

However, they are not solely to blame - more established economies are also slow to adapt, with the top five emitting countries being China, the USA, India, Russia and Japan. The result has been that in 2021, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose 6% to reach their highest level of 36.3 billion tonnes.

Things are starting to change at a global level

Both problems have understandably received increasing attention with international agreements being developed. For example, at a recent UN Environment Assembly, 175 countries resolved to create a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.

Elsewhere, environmental groups and corporations are also pledging to reduce plastic. For example, the 3R Initiative, formed by Verra and BVRio - along with Danone, Veolia, Nestlé, Tetra Pak, Conservation International and South Pole. The Initiative provides numerous incentives for corporations to reduce their plastic footprints and decrease waste.

When it comes to emissions, at the end of last year, COP26 saw 197 countries sign the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to cut carbon footprints. Additionally, over 100 nations pledged to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. In 2020 alone, it is estimated that $503 billion was spent on decarbonization at all levels of industry.

Awareness of the need to reduce plastic waste and carbon footprints is altering behavior at all levels – from individuals to giant corporations. It is starting to make a difference, but many argue it is not fast enough.

Innovation is helping to turn the tide

The increase in recycling and renewables is starting to make a noticeable impact. Advances in alternative materials, improved efficiency of solar and wind farms, and the popularity of electric cars are making a difference.

Smaller, more innovative companies are also creating novel and transformative ways to solve these issues. A great example is Canadian-based Fusion One, which has developed a way to turn plastic into hydrogen.

“Our process helps tackle plastic waste and produces environmentally friendly hydrogen, which can be used as fuel,” Fusion One CEO Elliott Talbott explains.

“The world is finally waking up to the significant issues of plastic in the environment and climate change. It is reassuring to see everyone, from governments to individuals, agree on what needs to be done and for behaviors to start changing. However, as is often the case, it is all happening too slowly,” Talbott says.

“With plastic found at the top of Everest and the bottom of the Mariana Trench, there is clearly a problem. Yet we continue to produce more of it. At the same time, global average temperatures are rising, and extreme weather is becoming more commonplace. Something needs to be done now, and that is where we step in.”

Fusion One has developed a process that diverts curbside plastic from landfill and processes it in their ‘HydroPlas’ reactor. This converts waste to Synthesis Gas, which has a very high hydrogen content. Heat from the process is also recovered and used to generate power, which can be added to the grid.

“Hydrogen gas is a great source of clean energy,” Talbott says. “It can be used in individual fuel cells or power major transport infrastructure such as a city-wide bus network. The only emissions are water vapor.”

Due to its ability to produce energy without carbon, hydrogen has surged in demand, having already tripled since 1975. As industries aim for net-zero, that is predicted to rise 44% by 2030 and account for 12% of global energy by 2050.

“All countries are trying to reduce plastic waste and lower carbon emissions. Unfortunately, while renewable energy sources have come a long way, they aren’t quite there yet. Some are switching to less-polluting natural gas, but even that releases a lot of carbon, and, as recent events have shown, price fluctuations can be a significant factor. Hydrogen has a lot of advantages.

“The technology and processes we have developed at Fusion One turn a ubiquitous problem like plastic into clean fuel. But we are just one of a growing number of innovators working on solutions that tackle major problems facing humanity and the environment. Together, we can help make a genuine difference,” Talbott says.

The planet faces several significant issues, but plastic waste and carbon emissions are two of the most pressing. Although these problems have been known for over half a century, the dangers they pose are finally being acted upon. Recycling techniques and renewable energy have come a long way but aren’t enough for current requirements. Hopefully, technology and innovation will help us bridge that gap.