Putting Plastic on a Secure Millennium Road while Accelerating Plastic Transition.
The word “sequester” means to isolate and seclude for security and protection during an important moment. Plastic Sequestration means just this: to put plastic on a safe thousand-year road– while accelerating our moment of plastic transition.
The science is clear. Plastic loose in the biosphere harms ecologies, humans and animals. The research is also clear: For the last fifty years, industrial methods of plastic processing have accelerated plastic consumption, production and pollution while becoming a major source of global CO2 emissions. It has never been more important to reduce the production, consumption and processing of plastic..
Fortunately, we have some stellar examples to follow!
The Earth has been managed its carbon to cultivate our incredible biosphere. Indigenous peoples have lived in ecological harmony for millennia without the concept of waste. Countries have been trading ‘carbon sequestration credits’ for the last three decades. From these examples, the Global Ecobrick Alliance has developed the concept of plastic sequestration.
Plastic sequestration is the process of putting plastic on a safe thousand year journey while accelerating plastic transition.
Following the Earth’s ancient example we can put compacted plastic on a journey through the next millennium in which it doesn’t contaminate the biosphere. As an ecological service, it includes our transition from plastic consumption, production and CO2 emissions.
The Global Ecobrick Alliance, as a not-for profit Earth Enterprise that upholds the vision of plastic transition, has established the criteria for plastic sequestration to ensure that the process is a true ecological service. Plastic Sequestion must…
- …put plastic on a safe, thousand-year journey out of industry and out of the biosphere.
- …be a process of compaction that is non-proprietary, non-industrial and favor small-scale.
- …terminally reduce the plastic’s surface area to a minimum density of 0.33 g/ml
- …be done as an ecological service– not for business or for-profit enterprise.
- …accelerate plastic transition– it does not encourage further plastic consumption and production,
- …be independently validated to authenticate that the above criteria have been met. The authentication process is motivated by Earth service– not by for-profit enterprise.
Keep reading to learn more about the exciting potential, theory and science behind plastic sequestration. You can also download our white paper for a complete academic discourse with full references.
For the the last few billion years, the earth has been slow and steady removing carbon from the atmosphere, compacting and storing it. The result has been an ever more liveable, green and conscious biosphere! Its an example that we can follow in our own small ways.
Plastic is the culmination of the long story of the earth’s sequestration of carbon under the ground. Over hundred million years, the slow and steady accumulation of silt and sediment buried ancient forests and seaweed– storing their carbon for eons under the earth. In so doing, the climate stabilized and life flourished. Humans emerged. We figured out how to unsearth and burn this carbon for energy. Ever since have been refining them into fuels and plastic– which make the global petrol-captial economy spin.
Plastic is unique! It is one of the few petroleum products that is not immediately burned and loosened into the biosphere..
Keeping plastic as plastic is an effective way to keep its carbon from reaching the atmosphere.
However, plastic degrades quickly when it is exposed to sun, fire, oxygen and/or friction. Its degradation is in proportion to the amount of surface that is exposed. As the vast majority of modern plastic has been extruded into thin films, this means that degrades very easily. Photodegradation fragments plastic debris into smaller and smaller particles, know as microplastics and releases green house gases. Meanwhile, the processing of plastic for recycling, incineration or dumping burns lots of fuel, releasing large volumes of CO2.
By compacting plastic and storing plastic all this can be avoided.
By compressing thin, high-surface area plastic to a set density, the net exposed area is reduced a thousand-fold. We call this the ‘This terminal minimization of net surface area‘. Compacted and contained plastic has no way to degrade and will remain intact indefinitely. Studies have shown that even plastic designed to degrade quickly will endure with minimal degradation underground.
followiong the Earth’s ancient example, compacting plastic enables us to indefinitely secure plastic and its hydrocarbons from becoming toxins, micro-plastics or from reaching the atmosphere as C02.
Learn more about Plastic: The Long Story
Keeping Plastic out of Industry
The results over the last five decades are clear. Industrial waste management inevitably disperses plastic loose into the biosphere while increasing plastic consumption, production and CO2 emissions. Keeping plastic out of industry is essential to reducing CO2 emissions and plastic pollution.
To ensure that plastic is safe for the next 1000 years, it is essential that its road through time avoids industrial processing– such as recycling, incineration and dumpling. It is also essential to undermine the illusion of a solution created by industrial methods that encourages continued consumption.
Research shows that recycling is systematically designed to encourage the perception of a solution, and thereby enable the ongoing production and consumption of virgin plastic. Over the last 50 years, only 9% of plastic has been recycled. Pursuing the recovery of the capital value of plastic industrial recycling, waste-to-energy incineration, and land-filling have led to the release of 91% of all plastic ever created into the environment.
While industrial systems may have the best intentions, as they operate within the petro-capital econmy they are constrained to its forces. Industrial methods are driven by profit to recover the recover the capital-value of plastic. Once this value is exhausted, plastic is cycled out of Industry to the biosphere.
Industrial methods, such as recycling, incineration and landfilling promote the global dispersal of plastic. Moving from its original source of compacted carbon, to refinement, to a plastic pellet, to a product that is exported around the world, industrial system are fundamentally expansive. The resulting plastic is reused-several-times, then inevitably set loose into the environment through incineration, landfilling, dumping and degradation.
In contrast, non-industrial human communities have built structures and intentions that have lasted well over a thousand years. By keeping our plastic local we have far more control and confidence over its destiny. By making collective decisions as communities to safeguard plastic through sequestration, we can pass on the responsibility through the generations. By putting sequestered plastic to use in known, safe, stable locations, we can also be confident about its journey through time.
See our white paper for extensive documentation of the research and science referred to here.
Accelerating Plastic Transition
The ecological service of plastic sequestration must be open and accountable and raise ecological awareness. Only then can we so that we can ensure its acceleration of plastic transition.
The plastic that we handle on a daily basis is a reflection of humanity’s last century of de-compacting ancient carbon storage and dispersing it around the biosphere. The science is clear that this has been harming the biosphere for the last three decades. However, it is important to note the reason we’ve continued carbon decompaction is that harmful effects were hidden from us.
Research shows that in the 1960’s the early recycling industry was established with the primary goal of ensuring the continuation of plastic consumption. The industry noted that concerns about plastic’s environmental issues posed a threat to producing more plastic. Despite recognizing in the early 1970’s that recovering used plastic was economically unfeasible, Industry pushed forward to promote recycling as a solution to used plastic.
In this way, recycling presented an illusion of a solution to consumers who were becoming more and more concerned about environmental issues. Consumers were cut off from the true impacts of their consumption and discarded plastic. By lulling consumers into an illusion and exploiting their earth-concern, plastic consumption could continue, and with it our dependence on plastic and the growth of the petro-capital economy.
To be an authentic earth service, the process of plastic sequestration must be transparent, open and accountable. The process must spread accurate information about plastic itself. It must raise awareness of plastic’s story, its dangers and its connection to petro-capital economy. Only then can we understand plastic’s part in the petro-capital economy and our need to do better. Only then can individuals and communities make wise decisions about their daily plastic consumption and disposal.
We call this process of awareness, empowerment and action: “plastic transition”.
Not for profit Enterpise
Plastic Sequestration must be motivated first and foremost by the value of ecological service.
Industrial methods of plastic processing have share one thing in common– they are operated by for-profit enterprise. When the focus of massive industrial operations is to recoup costs, to generate revenue and create profits for shareholders, deep ecological service comes second. The results of five decades of profit-motivated plastic processing can be observed clearly in the proportional rise of plastic pollution in the world today.
Learning from the failure of industry, plastic sequestration must operate with a goal beyond the generation of profit. Instead its primary goal must be ecological service and be based on the economic recognition of the value of healing and regenerating ecosystems. The process must tap and channel the vast rising earth-concern rising in society today.
Authentication by Net Weight
Not just any plastic that is compacted can be considered sequestered.
A means of verifying that the plastic’s compaction has been done according to the criteria presented here is required to assure the authenticity of plastic sequestration. In this way, sequestrated plastic can be referred to with confidence in terms of net weight (i.e. X kg of sequestered plastic). The process of authentication must itself be motivated by the goal of serving the earth (as opposed to capital and profit).
In the task of authentication, block chain and decentralized ledgers technologies are particularly suited. Importantly, profit motivation (in any currency, including cryptocurrencies) must not be the motivation driving the authentication process. In this way, the enterprise of authentication doesn’t become an end in itself and inadvertently encourage the continued production and consumption of plastic.
Learning from the Carbon Credit System
Carbon trading quantifies CO2 that has been sequestered and allows its purchase by business and individuals to offset their own emissions.
Carbon trading as a mechanism for this was implemented as part of the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 180 countries in 1997 to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions between the years 2008 to 2012. A carbon credit is a term for any tradeable certificate representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide (or the equivalent amount of another greenhouse gas). Credits are issued to carbon-reducing projects under a stringent framework for authenticating the claims of C02 sequestration. The sale of carbon credits continues as a means to offset the carbon released during transportation of goods as well as industrial and agricultural activities. Accredited activities, like forestry projects, solar arrays and other enterprises that sequester carbon receive the funds from carbon credit purchasers.
Critics observe that the globalized carbon-trading market favors large-scale, corporate sequestration initiatives. The high transaction cost for verifying and authenticating carbon sequestration projects makes the participation and generation cost prohibitive for small scale activities and negligible for large, industrial projects. Big players then buy, sell and speculate with carbon credits on the global commodity market for profit, detaching the credits from their original purpose. This dynamic enables big players to continue and profit by legitimizing their carbon-intensive activities without incentivizing a transition. Most notably, the system does not incentivize and support small and micro-scale initiatives– which collectively have a massive potential for carbon sequestration, regeneration and transition.
Critics also observe that the carbon trading system which enables large companies to continue their carbon intensive operations, fails to address the root cause of these business operation: consumption and petro-capital growth. The system fails to provide direct feedback and cost to the consumers making the choices that require the offsets in the first place.
Rather than decrease carbon emissions over the last decade, carbon emissions have increased dramatically.
There is much we can learn from the over two decades operation of the system of selling credits of carbon sequestration.
Equivalent CO2 Sequestration
Sequestering plastic also prevents the release of CO2 and green houses gases from degradation, industry and petro-capital participation.
The 2019 report, Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet concluded that “the plastic pollution crisis that overwhelms our oceans is also a significant and growing threat to the Earth’s climate.”
The report examined the CO2 produced at various points in the life-cycle of plastic. It examined the impact of extraction and transport, refining and manufacture, waste management and plastic in the environment. It observed that the production and incineration of plastic will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere—equal to the emissions from 189 five- hundred-megawatt coal power plants. At present rates, these greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to meet carbon emissions targets.
Plastic sequestration, by keeping plastic out of industry, thus also has a subtractive climate impact.
Proper and authenticated ecobricking ensures that plastic won’t get loose into the environment. It also ensure that plastic won’t get into industry. By keeping plastic local we prevent it from being shipped around the world to be recycled, dumped and incinerated– all process native to the petro-captial economy that have a significant generative CO2 impact.
In particular ecobricking has the following subtractive CO2 impacts.
- Sequestered plastic won’t be incinerated and won’t release its stored carbon
- Sequestered plastic won’t generate more CO2 through its processing in the recycling industry
- Sequestered plastic won’t photodegrade releasing CO2 and other green house gases
- Sequestered plastic won’t degrade into microplastics and interfere with zoo plankton and their work sequestering carbon in the oceans
- Sequestration, as a by-definition, non-capital activity, represents time not spent participating in the petro-capitial economy (buying, consuming, etc) and the CO2 generation.
- Sequestration raises ecological consciousness and encourages the lowering of plastic consumption and its associated CO2 generation
- Sequestration accelerates plastic transition and disassociation from the petro-captial economy and its CO2 generation.
In 2018, the GEA estimated that for every 1kg of plastic that is burned, 3.1kg of C02 is released based on the average carbon content of average single use plastic. As of August 2020, the GEA is currently preparing a white paper report re-xamining our estimated CO2 impact of authenticated ecobrick sequestered plastic based on the points above.
Is Sequestration a Final Solution for Plastic?
In the circular systems of the biosphere and its ecologies, there’s never such thing as ‘final’.
The carbon that we’re extracting after hundreds of millions of years of storage, is a gift of ancient sun light from the Earth to us. It is powering our civilization and accelerating our ecological consciousness. By sequestering our carbon/plastic into long-term storage we’re gifting it to future generations. Just as the dinosaurs had no idea how their forests and oceans would be used by us far in the future, we have no idea how our re-stored carbon can be used in the future.
We do have a good idea though, that its alot better gift sequestered and stored safely than scattered loose and degrading in the biosphere.
Fundamental to plastic sequestration is the concept of gifting our plastic to future generation or ages.
Ecobricks as Plastic Sequestration
The GEA advocates properly made and authenticated ecobricks as form of plastic sequestration. as it not only puts plastic on a safe 1000 year path, but it also accelerates plastic transition. Learn more about the standards of authenticated ecobrik sequestered plastic (AES Plastic)…
In order to understand the ecological service of various ways to process plastic it is essential to take a 1000 year view.
Plastic sequestration operates within the Ayyew paradigm. This means we don’t see plastic as ‘waste’ but rather as a opportunity to move towards greater ecological harmony.
Plastic's Long Story
Plastic Sequestration follows the Earth’s example. Learn about the ancient and modern history of plastic.
Ecobrick & Brikcoin White Paper
Go deep into the science, ethos, and vision behind our Brikcoin Manual Blockchain and AES Plastic.
Sequestering plastic is a positive ecological service that we can use to balance the negative ecological impacts of our lives or businesses.
“When you sit in council for the welfare of the people, you must not think of yourself or of your family, not even of your generation. Make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today.”
— Oren Lyons (Seneca), Onondaga Nation