We are surrounded by plastic, always, and everywhere - these are the opening words for the latest ZDF Aspekte episode which is titled "Plastikwahn - "Wie werden wir die Kunststoffplage wieder los?" ("Plasticmania - how do we get rid of the plastic plague?"). In this documentary, ZDF Aspekte host Jo Schück gets to the bottom of the causes of global plastic pollution, and explores ideas for solutions - and in the process, he also ends up with us! We are super happy we could welcome Jo and his team to traceless, give him a little tour of our lab and tell him more about our natural plastic alternative.
How did it all begin, and how can we stop the madness?
Did you know that although the Germans are very concerned about environmental protection, they are at the top of the list in Europe when it comes to the per capita production of plastic waste? Always accompanied by his inflatable plastic palm tree, Jo takes us on a time-spanning journey that illuminates the subject from many sides, starting off at the very beginning of the plastic age with the question: How did an advanced material become a global pollution problem?
To find this out, Jo's first stop is the Vitra Design Museum and the exhibition "Plastics - Remaking our World", where the Director of the museum tells us more about the history behind plastics. While pointing out that the invention of plastics has meant great progress in technology, design, society and economy, we already learn that the material's greatest asset - namely its durability - turned into a major challenge at some point. Following Jo to his next station in Hamburg, we meet filmmaker and author Hauke Wendler, who uses the iconic plastic chair "Monobloc" to show us that it is worth taking a differentiated look at plastic objects and that they should not be demonised as bad per se.
Then we follow Jo into the heart of the recycling company Veolia, and learn why sorting plastic waste is not so easy - only to learn from Greenpeace activist Viola Wohlgemuth why there's still so much plastic waste exported from Hamburg to faraway countries. Also the artist Swaantje Güntzel criticises the hypocrisy in dealing with plastic in a squeaky-clean aesthetic. Coming from a scientific side, Dr. Michael Braungart, the inventor of the CradleToCradle design principle (which has been the role model for traceless' development) tells us more about the systemic change that has to happen, and how the mechanisms of the free market can help to foster an economy that is truly circular economy.
"Is this the solution for saving the world?" - "Well, it's one of the solutions!"
In the search for innovative and new solutions out of the plasticmania, Jo also ends up at traceless. Our founders Anne and Johanna take him on a little tour through our alternative and bio-circular value chain - starting from agricultural food plants, over residues of their processing like brewer's spent grains, to our traceless material granulate and potential product applications. They explain what makes our technology so innovative, and answer the question why the substitution with compostables has to go hand in hand with all other measures - recycling, reduction, improves disposal systems - to ultimately tackle the problem.
The visit at traceless ends with the open question: With traceless, will it be possible to just throw a products thoughtlessly into the environment? While the answer is left open in the documentary, we would like to take the chance and add here what we would have answered: Of course, products should never be littered into the environment, even if they're made from a naturally degradable material! Yes, our materials themselves are harmless to nature, but we should never forget to consider the side effects: Rubbish lying around invites others to copy it, and the next rubbish will probably be made of a less environmentally friendly material. Therefore, we always recommend to dispose of traceless materials in common waste streams - preferrably composting, alternatively residual or packaging waste, depending on the actual application, so and the final product where traceless is used.
The difference to plastics? Well, no matter how traceless products are disposed of, and even in the face of our globally dysfunctional waste systems - you can be sure that our materials don't affect the environment, and will certainly not contribute to plastic pollution.
Informative, multi-layered - and entertaining
We are genuinely proud to be featured in this documentary, and excited about how informative and multi-layered - and how entertaining! - the final film has become, and how many important facets are shown. Again, it shows: the challenge of plastic pollution is a complex one, and we have to look at it from different sides. To solve it, we have to pull many levers together, and must not shy away from trying new and innovative ways.
Watch the documentary in the ZDF Mediathek under this link: https://www.zdf.de/kultur/aspekte/plastikwahn-muell-loesung-aus-dem-irrsinn-100.html