TEDxWarwick: Ending the plastic epidemic

Vidushi Goyal
By Vidushi Goyal

TEDxWarwick is one of the largest student-led conferences in Europe that shares ideas worth spreading from people drawing from their personal experiences and inspiring anyone around them.

MacRebur is a social enterprise launched by Toby McCartney working towards reducing plastic waste ending up in the ocean through an innovative idea which has been applauded in the startup world.

“What lives in our oceans?” a teacher asked her 2nd grade class.

“ – Fish!”

“ – Whales!”

“ – Dolphins!”

“ – Plastic!”

Toby McCartney, a social entrepreneur, citizen of the planet and visionary, has devised a special solution that looks to help end an epidemic which has plagued the earth: plastic.

McCartney knew he had to do something when his daughter responded to her teacher: “plastic lives in our ocean waters”. He did not want his daughter living in an earth where the beautiful flora and fauna of the oceans does not exist in her world.

Every year, approximately 8 million metric tons of waste plastic ends up in the waters of the Earth’s oceans. McCartney painted this as being equal to throwing a rubbish truck’s load of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for the rest of the year. Out of all this waste plastic, we only recycle a shockingly low 14%. In order to preserve our environment we need to change our behaviours and look for solutions, as McCartney is doing successfully.

McCartney has a revolutionary solution aimed at combatting multiple issues with one idea: plastic roads. These roads are made of a special mix of asphalt made by plastic pellets retrieved from plastic waste. These pellets are melted into the asphalt mix, creating the perfect blend for a new, eco-friendly road.

Firstly, the roads are much more inexpensive than regular roads as less new materials are required. They are therefore beneficial for the environment, as plastic is recycled and reused. Moreover, companies trying to cut cost can gain a competitive edge with this lower-cost and eco-friendly asphalt. For McCartney, however, its about “creating a business that looks at solutions for environmental and social problems than looking for a turnover and profit.”

Next, it provides a new, alternate and innovative way to fix damaged roads in an eco-friendly way. McCartney had the opportunity to visit India where the idea for MacRebur was born. He saw how landfill pickers would literally pick out the plastic and sell them to the road builders to fix the road. The builders would put a load of the plastic into the pothole and heat it up. This would melt the plastic into place and fill the hole. McCartney was fascinated and dismayed by the pollution this method caused. With his special mix of asphalt, however, McCartney is able to provide a solution which can aid in reducing the pollution caused by these other methods.

MacRebur portrays how effortlessly it is possible to harmonise between plastic waste, innovation and economical benefits with this one idea. This startup has been in the headlines and used as classroom, entrepreneurship examples due to its unique factors. However, MacRebur is only solving the after-effect of plastic waste. As people, we should focus on tackling root cause of this epidemic – the consumption of plastic.

It is instrumental for humans to change habits and focus on reducing the quantity of plastic we use, which in effect can also help end the plastic plague.

Header Image: Winding Road by JanBaby on Pixabay

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