Everyone now knows that there is an island of plastic sitting in the middle of the ocean, and, most recently, that companies like Starbucks are eliminating straws in an effort to reduce our plastic waste. While reducing plastic use is one attempt at a solution to this overbearing problem, it is nearly impossible that plastic use can ever stop completely. Hoping to completely cease the use of plastic goods effaces the reality that plastics have become an irreversible part of our society. What if, in addition to reconsidering our plastics use, we could also reconsider the industry as a whole, looking toward sustainability instead of disposability, solidifying reuse and recycling instead of mindless consumerism? What if instead of tearing down a legacy, we could reclaim it as productive for both industry and environment?
“What if instead of tearing down a legacy, we could reclaim it as productive for both industry and environment?”
This morning, the Midstory team met with founder Dr. Thomas Brady of Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), whose headquarters are right here in the Toledo region. In 33 years, PTI has become a staple, committed industry giant for this region, serving national companies like Coca-Cola and revolutionizing Toledo to become a true industrial legacy for our city. That success, however, does not change the fact that our environmental problems are growing—and so is our awareness of them. According to National Geographic, nearly 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s ocean from coastal regions each year. So how do we begin to reclaim our legacies—with all their good and ugly—to adapt and transform to ultimately serve as a more productive and conscious powerhouse than ever before? If anyone is going to fix our plastics problem, it won’t be Starbucks; it has to come from the ones who have the resources, the power, the technology, and the vision for the ever-changing world of industry.
What better place to start than the very city that has built its identity on shifting soil? Toledo has fought its way through changing identities in agriculture, industry, post-industry, and now technology. Toledo was and to some extent still is a city of cars, glass, production and assembly lines. And in this post-industrial age, companies in the city are adapting instead of giving up—in true Toledo and Midwestern fashion. Steam plants and warehouses that used to literally power our city now house businesses and other city giants, and the same automotive companies that polluted our air are spearheading research on alternative energy.
“…companies in the city are adapting instead of giving up—in true Toledo and Midwestern fashion.”
Why can’t plastics do the same? Midstory is brainstorming a new thought project called the Toledo Plastics Project, a research and task force team with the aim to harness the power of industry itself to push for sustainability and a way for plastics to be productive in our efforts toward environmental sustainability and restoration. Midstory is already pushing the Toledo Water Project, focusing on turning the algae bloom crisis into opportunity by bringing industry, agriculture, and the environment together. The Toledo Plastics Project looks to do the same: to take advantage of Toledo’s waterfront position, reconciling a throwaway-culture plastics industry with the cleanliness of our rivers, lakes and oceans. Toledo should be a catalyst to face the reality of man-made, man-sourced pollutants and redirect the contemporary culture toward sustainability and durability.
What if we weren’t on opposing sides, industry versus environment, or business versus conservation? What if our midstory can produce lasting and real solutions? What if Toledo can use its industrial past and present, capitalizing on crisis to become the leader in sustainable plastics use?
More to come…
Cover image: Lou Dematteis/Spectral Q via Getty Images