With some eight million tonnes of plastic finding its way into the ocean each year, the problem of single-use plastic can no longer be ignored.
In Asia, thought to be responsible for more than 60 per cent of the plastic trash flowing into the sea, the anti-plastic industry is flourishing, with a slew of companies developing ways to recycle old plastic or finding new materials to use in its place.
In Singapore, BlueRen converts discarded waste plastic into carbon nanotubes, a material used in place of concrete, while biotech company RWDC Industries hopes to eliminate single-use items like cutlery, bags and plates through its sustainable materials. Using microbial fermentation, the company produces a naturally occurring polymer that biodegrades within weeks, raising $22 in funding as a result.
In Indonesia, where the government has an ambitious plan to reduce 70 per cent of marine plastic debris by 2025 Evoware has pioneered a seaweed-based packaging for food that is edible and dissolves in water.
An Australian company is also producing bioplastics that are entirely biodegradable and compostable – just like a piece of apple peel. Bioplas makes reusable bags, food packaging bags and even agricultural mulch film that biodegrades without leaving harmful plastic residue in the earth.
In Cambodia, Siam Eco Pack produces eco-friendly packaging and products that cater to retail businesses, such as paper straws and sugarcane takeaway boxes, while the aptly named Cleanbodia is using the root vegetable cassava – found throughout Southeast Asia – to make cost-effective biodegradable bags that decompose within five years.
Cassava is also being used by a Bali-based company Avani Eco to make eco-friendly plastic bags that dissolve in water.
With growing concern about the impact of single-use plastic on the environment, companies around the world are taking action.
Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain, announced it will stop using plastic mini-toiletry containers across its 7,000 properties by December 2020, while consumer goods giant Unilever pledged to halve use of new plastics by 2025.
Transitioning to more environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional plastics will take time, according to a report released by the UN, which states that governments, individuals and businesses must work together in "weaning society from its dependence on a material that continues to cause havoc in the environment."