Over the years, the role of plastics in recycling has been hotly debated and often misunderstood. Today, “greener” processes and attitudes alike are opening a new world in plastics recycling…from North America to India and China. Industry and the private sector are both taking a closer look at the subject and developing ways to reduce our collective footprint and create a better future for the environment.
In fact, recycled plastics are becoming an increasingly valuable commodity. In 2013, the U.S. alone recycled 3.5 million tons of post-industrial and post-consumer plastics. The latter category is made up largely of items like water bottles, food containers, and shopping bags…traditional plastics collected in blue municipal bins across the nation for years. It’s these post-consumer plastics that contributed about 2/3 of that 2013 total.
Engineered and industrial plastics made up the rest. That includes high grade materials found in vinyl siding, PVC pipe, appliances, and cars for example. New technologies are increasing the recyclability of plastic, making more products available for “end of life” recycling than ever before. Acrylic and Styrene are two prime examples of plastics that can be reconstituted into cost-effective, quality products. They’re part of the new generation of plastics that are both ecologically and economically sustainable. Polystyrene, for example, can be recycled up to 20 times without significant loss of its inherent properties and beneficial qualities. And while new Acrylic materials can be a little pricy, recycling it is a very attractive economic option. Recycled Acrylic can also be blended with virgin material to produce lower cost products without sacrificing structural integrity.
And where do those recycled plastics go? What kinds of products and uses are finding their way back to consumers? Plastic composite lumber, clothing, carpeting, detergent bottles, and even those recycling bins themselves are just a few. Recyclable plastics are even being exported to manufacturing facilities overseas to meet growing demand for high quality plastic scrap. In 2014, America exported nearly $950 million dollars’ worth of scrap plastic. Recycling plastic also requires 85% less energy than it does to create new plastic, lessening the carbon footprint and reducing production costs.
Plastic Products Mfg (PPM) is doing our part to make the world just a little better in this area. Every week, a company comes to pick up our recyclable material. We detest the word “waste” and find weekly pick-up a win-win solution. It not only helps the environment, it supports the global economy, too. It’s never too late to join the fight…climb aboard and give waste plastic new life!