ECO-HERO: A BROOKLYN INVENTOR’S SOLUTION TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Theo Stewart-Stand is a Brooklyn-Based designer and inventor who will exhibit at Go Green! BK Festival this year. Read about this local Eco-Hero’s solution to the problem of single-use plastics, and meet him/see his inventions at the festival on June 1st in McCarren Park! This article was edited by Abbey Jasmine Rose.
I have always had an adverse reaction to disposables. Being an avid recycler and composter, I take offense at things that are easily disposed of and are either landfilled or dumped in the ocean. More than 40 billion pieces of disposable plastic utensils are used and thrown away every year in America alone. That is approximately 64,000 tons of plastic landfill/ocean trash every year. Ocean plastic is very problematic and is being addressed in many countries. We can no longer just create one-time-use disposables. If people had a decent alternative to single use utensils it could have a real impact on the wastestream. I know that France and other European Countries have banned many types of plastics including single-use utensils. This provides a perfect entry for my creation, the Unitensil.
I made flat shapes in cardstock and taped them together to form a utensil. Then, I prototyped a single sheet of cardstock with pre scored folds in it. It puckered, but I needed to hold it closed. After a lot of trial and error I came across the idea of a snap version. I was reluctant to use plastic. I tried metal and silicone but the process was too expensive. I tried the spring steel to make a snap bracelet Utensil, but that turned out to be tricky and dangerous. So, plastic it was. I tried to source a polypropylene (PP) which was recycled, however it is hard to come by food grade PP. Polyethylene (PE) is too soft in hot food conditions. I will make the change to a recycled PE for the sleeve in the next round of production.
I use a company named Alphapointe in Queens, NY who hires the visually impaired to assemble the Unitensils. I use a die cutting process to make them inexpensively for production at a printing company in Massachusetts, and a plastic extrusion company makes and prints on the pouches.
There are other projects to manufacture as well, but they are in the research and development phase. One of these is a collapsible cup/bowl called Flatterware which is undergoing a redesign. It was created in response to single-use bulky travel containers for drinks and food. These fold extremely compactly and would be very practical for people on the go. I will be launching a kickstarter to create this soon, and concerned citizens like yourself will be able to help make this a reality!
The goal of my Brooklyn-based development firm, FoldItFlat, is to invent a curated collection for the traveler to make easy and comfortable good environmental choices for the planet. Our creations are low cost items, but importing them creates a large carbon footprint, not to mention the cost of import duties and such. Therefore, one of our goals is to manufacture in multiple sites around the world.
The European Union already banned all single-use plastic utensils, including straws. So has Seattle with other cities following. As the bans become more prevalent, Unitensil becomes an even greater solution. The Unitensil provides an easy, elegant way to travel with a fork, knife and spoon on the go. It is lightweight, ergonomic, and attractive. It has been fully tested with limited market exposure. It is the all-in-one utensil which folds in half and fits into a travel sleeve, doesn’t soil your bag, and weighs the same as a nickel. It is made to provide 200-300 uses, and recycles easily. It provides a low-cost solution which enables people to travel unencumbered by bulky utensils.
The Unitensil can be purchased online at www.Unitensil.com and Amazon.com. Come check out FoldItFlat and other great companies, organizations, and green intiatives at Go Green! BK Festival, Saturday June 1st in McCarren Park!
* Reprinted from the Go Green! BK Hub, the 24/7 representation of the annual Go Green! BK Festival.