Mind & Matter


Harvesting Plastic from the Sea

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Plastic fulfills a wide variety of useful functions, yet it remains a problematic material with regard to its life cycle. Specifically, I’m referring to petroleum-based plastic’s inability to biodegrade naturally. Even with a system of resin code-based recycling in place, traditional plastic that isn’t placed in the proper receptacle will defy natural processes for decades. One can look to the plastic flotsam in the sea for proof. According to Ecology Today, there is an artificial archipelago of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that comprises twice the area of the continental United States.

It is therefore reassuring to hear that at least one product manufacturer intends to tackle this problem directly. In recognition of the vast amount of plastic-based marine debris, Electrolux has announced plans to actively harvest this plastic in order to make new products. Beginning with the most vulnerable ocean habitats, Electrolux will gather plastic waste to make a new line of vacuum cleaners, as well as elevate public awareness about marine-based debris.

Imagine what environmental improvements would be possible if all manufacturers identified a major source of waste to harvest for new products?




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.