Kathy Kinney said it’s like a fruit fly in a bowl of dirty water – something gets lost as it goes in and goes out again
How a CNN Hero inspired people in Bali to collect nearly 500 tons of plastic for recycling
Kathy Kinney, CNN’s 2019 Hero of the Year and one of the individuals honored at the annual ceremony held in Washington DC, said collecting nearly 500 tons of plastic for recycling was no easy feat.
In Bali, in Indonesia, she began the Center for Plastic Pollution Research in 2016 as a place to collect waste plastics, none of which has been sent to landfills or incinerators.
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Kinney joined forces with dozens of volunteers and managed to collect and bring more than 380 tons to a centralized recycling site at the University of Bali.
Kinney said it’s like a fruit fly in a bowl of dirty water – something gets lost as it goes in and goes out again.
The microorganisms inside the trash take the plastic and turn it into a small film – or bubble – before the particles are broken down by bacteria.
“It becomes something that is more like a boiled apple: there’s energy at the bottom but no nutrients and it’s cooked,” Kinney told CNN. “People who don’t understand it believe that there’s a lid and when you open it there’s nothing, but it’s not. It has to be boiled to convert to an edible form, and the microorganisms at the bottom of the soil are going to eat the plastic.
“Even if we wanted to put some of it in the trash we could not.”
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Beyond the fight against plastic waste in the ocean, Kinney’s project is a way to give back to the community in which she began her quest, and to do it while expanding the knowledge of a new generation of environmental activists who seek solutions.
After the December CNN Hero ceremony where Kinney was honored as the first female CNN Hero, she said she was grateful for the attention.
But she added: “I’ve tried to maintain my humility and stay very focused on the work that we’re doing to bring it all together and really move beyond it.
“I was so stunned by the last few days, and it hasn’t sunk in yet. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.”