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Sustainability vs Greenwashing under alluded blue economy

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Sustainability has different perspectives regarding its concept, scale and means of achievement. However, the notion of the Brundtland Commission report 1987, titled “Our Common Future”, provides a good base to understand its essence; to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. It focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It has three pillars: economic, social, and environment which are informally known as profit, people and the planet Earth.
In simple way, sustainability is the capacity or ability to endure for which ecology provides its good example in the form of diversity and productivity of a biological system over a long period of time whereas “Greenwashing” is an unsubstantiated claim about environment friendly products which are used for deceiving consumers. Today, planet Earth is under tremendous pressure due to anthropogenic activities thus a clear understanding with a visionary approach on sustainability aspects is necessary in order to plan, execute and/or advocate any initiative. Therefore, it was realized to examine the sustainability aspects and Greenwashing of the interventions under the concept of alluded Blue Economy.
The alluded Blue Economy was brought forward by Pauli Gunter as an alternate initiative for the green economy concept, as part of his report submitted to the Club of Rome in 2009, titled “The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs”. This alternate concept alludes the blue colour to the view of the planet Earth from the space. In contrary to the case of Blue Economy introduced as a subset of Green Economy under the umbrella of United Nations Rio+20, the conceptual framework of Pauli Gunter is not ocean centric that is why I have added the word “alluded” as prefix to it so as to create a distinction between the two.
With economics and entrepreneurship background, in 1994, Pauli Gunter started Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) in Tokyo with the support of the Japanese government and United Nations University (UNU); targeted redesigning production and consumption into clusters of industries with innovative solutions for robust processes. In his year 2009 report, he tried to advocate his twin aims i.e. (1) stimulating entrepreneurship and (2) establishing higher standards for sustainability.
He tried to inspire the concept of alluded blue economy as a business model by creating 100 million jobs and substantial capital value through 100 innovations in the 2010-2020 decade. His Blue Economy 2.0 was released in 2014 and The Blue Economy 3.0 in 2017, showing what had been achieved worldwide. He is being portrayed as “the Steve Jobs as well as the Che Guevara of Sustainability”. However, there are several queries now exist regarding the true scale for the sustainability of his innovative ideas and products, though his approach is very much enviro-centric.
In order to explore the sustainability aspects of alluded blue economy, an in-depth analysis based on life-cycle methodology has been done for the two selected innovative ideas i.e. (1) Making Paper from Stone as an alternate to conventional paper, and (2) Fishing without Nets to maintain fish stock. “Stone paper” is considered a revolutionary product which was developed during the late 1990s in East Asia. Stone paper has a number of properties i.e. durable, oil and tear resistant, and waterproof that make it a remarkable alternative to traditional options, but it also has a few downsides as well as noticeably heavier than the traditional paper.
The long-term sustainability of stone paper can be well understood from its composition i.e. 80% Calcium Carbonate with 20% high-density polyethylene (HDPE) of the final product and analysis of the processes involved that includes crushing of Calcium Carbonate into a fine power and production of HDPE. HDPE is a synthetic plastic which is used as a binder to keep the Calcium Carbonate together and also maintain the foldable quality of the paper.
According to cradle-to-gate life cycle inventory of nine plastic resins and two polyurethane precursors prepared by Franklin for the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council (2007), about 59.2 million BTUs per ton is used to manufacture HDPE. He identified either oil or the natural gas as the primary source of energy for HDPE production. While, about 1478 lbs Carbon Dioxide equivalents per 1000 lbs HDPE are generated during HDPE production, 79% of the GHGs are fuel related and 21% are process related.
According to the research paper of Mermerta? Merve and Fatos Germirli Babuna (2019) titled “Life Cycle Environmental Impact Analysis of HDPE Packaging Materials for Different Disposal Options”, HDPE production and transportation stages involve substantial shares in global warming potential (GWP), photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP), acidification potential (AP), and eutrophication potential (EP). Besides, there are several other critical aspects originating from the various stages of waste stream such as collection, segregation, recycling and disposal of stone paper.
These are primarily arising from various life style consumption patterns due to its multi-purpose use. Moreover, there is authentic information available regarding the non-biodegradable aspect of HDPE which is the most critical among other aspects. So, imbalanced impact-benefit ratio raises the question of long-term sustainability and greenwashing for the innovative idea of Stone Paper and its advocacy under the emblem of ZERI and alluded Blue Economy.
On the other hand, “Fishing without Nets” using air bubble technology advocates catching only male fish. Just imagine a scenario, what would happen to the survival and fertility of an endemic marine fish species with a leftover population of all females in available stock where an epidemic spreads for which female fish is more susceptible?
It indicates that the whole population most likely wipe out within no time thus having a potential threat of extinction of many fish species at times. This would not likely stop at this point as it would further disturb the whole food-web of that ecosystem thus there is also a question raised on the sustainability of this innovative idea under the same emblem.