9 Plastic Solutions That Will Give You Hope for a Sustainable Future

Plastics’ carbon emissions account for one-fifth of the remaining carbon the world can emit by 2040 before we cross the 1.5⁰C global warming threshold. And the world is paying attention. The UN Environment Assembly plans to broker an international plastic pollution treaty—the biggest climate treaty since the Paris Agreement—by 2024. To keep emissions low and help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, these nine companies are taking the next big step into sustainable plastic innovation.

Nexus Circular: Reimagining the Plastic Lifecycle

Without a good waste management strategy, non-recyclable waste plastics usually go straight to the landfill or incinerator. Nexus Circular, formerly Nexus Fuels, changes the game with a proprietary, fully-circular process that breaks down waste plastic to its essential hydrocarbon molecules, which can then be remade into virgin plastics. Nexus even powers its 50-ton-per-day operation with the propane byproduct of this very process.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #162 with Jeff Gold, Founder and CEO of Nexus Fuels

Utopia Plastix: Plant-Based Plastics

Around 40% (and up to 50% by some reports) of all consumed plastics are single-use.  Utopia Plastix develops plant-based plastics that can replace any petroleum-based single-use plastic product, but that’s not all: Utopia’s patent-pending innovation can also affect traditional plastic polymers to make them more carbon-friendly, and they can be easily implemented in the manufacturing process. Utopia is committed to a circular economy, championing the seed to sell initiative and supporting regenerative agriculture for the farmers who supply their materials.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #167 with Sharina Perry, CEO of Utopia Plastix

ByFusion: Plastic Waste to Building Materials

ByFusion is changing the way we look at plastic waste and construction. Their zero-waste building material, ByBlock®, uses the power of heat and compression to convert waste plastics into a lightweight, no-crumble cement block alternative, harnessing these plastics’ incredible resiliency. By providing local communities with the hardware for creating ByBlock®, ByFusion helps communities and corporations to take charge of their own plastic waste. Best of all, ByFusion has a modular system, meaning they can scale the operation to any size—even as small as a single shipping container.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #173 with Heidi Kujawa, CEO and Founder of ByFusion

Final: Reusable Everyday Products

Final is on a critical mission to reduce our plastic dependency and fight the plastic pollution crisis. Since 2018, when FinalStraw first launched, Final has kept around 300 million straws from entering the environment. Today, Final innovates beyond straws, boasting an impressive array of Foreverables™ — reusables that replace some of the most commonly used single-use products, like cutlery and wipes.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #62 with Emma Rose Cohen, CEO and Founder of Final, the Company That Created FinalStraw

Plastic Pollution Coalition: Advocacy to End the Crisis

How do you make the biggest impact to eliminate plastic pollution? You organize, and you speak to people’s hearts. Plastic Pollution Coalition connects more than 1200 entities across 75 countries to organize advocacy projects that encourage equity, a circular economy, and the elimination of plastic pollution’s toxic effects. With projects like the Last Plastic Straw Movement and collaboration with notable activists like Hannah Testa from Hannah4Change, Plastic Pollution Coalition works for a cleaner, healthier world.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #76 Diana Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition

Newlight Technologies: Greenhouse Gasses as a Resource

The problem with synthetic plastic is that it doesn’t degrade. Newlight Technologies’ natural plastic alternative, AirCarbon, does. It’s created by harnessing the power of ocean microorganisms that eat methane, a greenhouse gas, and produce the biomaterial PHB as a byproduct. This PHB, or AirCarbon, can then be melted and shaped, to be used as a substitute for plastic, fiber, or even leather, all at an affordable price. The winner of nine awards, Newlight’s process isn’t just carbon-zero, it’s carbon-negative.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #114 with Mark Herrema, Co-Founder and CEO of Newlight Technologies

Ubuntoo: Sustainable Corporate Ambition to Action

As sustainability grows in importance, both to companies and their clients, many corporations struggle with finding innovations and connecting with experts who can help achieve their sustainability goals. Ubuntoo sets out to change that, offering a platform where companies can search a virtual marketplace of over 3000 sustainable innovators. Ubuntoo’s base platform is free to use, but it also offers private collaboration spaces with curation services to elevate a company’s sustainability capabilities to the next level up to and through implementation.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #159 with Venkatesh Kini, Co-Founder of Ubuntoo

Upstream: Hero of Reusables

End-of-life solutions to plastic waste, like recycling and waste management, are not enough to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. To enact greater change, Upstream has decided to look, well, upstream. A public-interest non-profit organization, Upstream champions the reusables cause and envisions a world where single-use plastics are obsolete. They have helped pass over a hundred laws regarding plastic waste, have been a creating hand in the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, and have even been expert advisors on plastic strategies to the UN Environment Program. 

Listen: Bigger Than Us #172 with Matt Prindiville, CEO and Chief Solutioneer for Upstream

BLOOM by Algix: Algae to Restore the Environment

When freshwater becomes polluted, excessively warmed, or otherwise nutritionally imbalanced, harmful algae blooms and their toxins can form, poisoning not only habitats for wildlife, but even humans via drinking water, poisoned seafood, or airborne droplets, with potentially fatal consequences. BLOOM intercepts harmful algae from water cleanup processes and turns it into a sustainable, versatile foam material. In 2016, BLOOM launched a shoe featuring algal foam, and since then, they’ve collaborated with countless brands to implement algal foam materials in manufacturing everything from surfboards to floor mats.

Listen: Bigger Than Us #161 with Ryan Hunt, Co-Founder of Algix

Hear interviews with leaders in the cleantech, green tech, and sustainability sectors every week on the Bigger Than Us podcast

Bigger Than Us
Latest posts by Bigger Than Us (see all)

You may also like: