Goal Green


Japan’s Answer to the Plastics Problem
July 3, 2007, 12:22 am
Filed under: Furoshiki, Japan, Plastic, Pollution

Ask and you shall receive. Japan, at the forefront of green innovation, has recently solved the problem I covered in my previous post. The country actually has two interesting forays into dealing with the growing problem of the indestructible substance. Quite a while back, Japan introduced another material that would serve as a substitute to the tradition polymers; furoshiki. In westerners’ laymen, this is a square piece of cloth that the Japanese traditionally used to wrap clothes and transport goods.

Last year, the Japanese Minister of the Environment, Yuriko Koike started promoting the cloth as a means to transport groceries, carry lunches, and perform all other tasks which the plastic bag has dominated since WWII. The bags have proven to be sufficient in carrying and wrapping just about any type of object, not to mention that they are more stylish and neater than your typical plastic grocery bags. Head on over to Furoshiki for different wrapping techniques and PingMag for some beautiful designs. While these bags are not readily available at your local Wal-Mart, I have a strong feeling that they will come onto the scene as the “it” accessory item soon enough.

In other Japanese-produced gifts that the world has yet to discover, Akio Kamimura and Shigehiro Yamamoto have developed a plastic recycling technique that completely breaks down certain plastics with the aid of ionic liquids. The method has so far convinced scientists that it would be both cost effective and energy efficient on a commercial scale. Currently still in the laboratory testing phase, the method seems to be a promising way of breaking down polymers that include Kevlar and Nylon. The interesting aspect of this process is that recycled plastics will be able to actually produce higher quality plastics (and hopefully other materials).

Generally in all recycling processes, an inferior, watered down version of the original product is produced, so, as one could imagine, the process can only go on for so long. This new depolymerizing idea, however, claims to eliminate this problem. A detailed report on the process is scheduled to be published this month. I’ll be sure to report it as soon as I see it. In the meantime, go out and try to find the coolest looking furoshiki design and be on the look out for more innovations from the home of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan. More on all of these subjects very soon.

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