The Circular Recyclability of Plastic

Posted by Rob Helmke | Thursday, April 4, 2019 0 Comments

It’s hard to imagine going a day in our modern world without using plastic in some capacity. Plastic is cheap to produce, flexible, and can be used in countless applications, making it extremely common in applications ranging from packaging to computers.

 

However, our reliance on plastic has created issues in our oceans and waterways due to the tremendous amount of waste this material generates when it is not properly recycled. To combat this issue, industry experts are working to implement a circular system in which businesses and consumers reuse and recycle plastics in a more controlled manner.

The Problem

The plastic production process relies on and results in avoidable levels of waste from start to finish. Plastic is made from petrochemicals, a nonrenewable resource that needs to be drilled and shipped around the world. More emissions are generated as petrochemicals are refined and shaped into desired end products. Then, usually, consumers discard the plastic after use, leaving it to sit in landfills for millennia.

Improperly disposed plastic has contributed to a growing crisis in the world’s oceans. Ocean currents have resulted in the creation of a Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is exactly what it sounds like. Scientists estimate that the combined weight of the garbage in this one part of the Pacific tops 87,000 tons, and its area spans the size of Texas.

The garbage patch consists mostly of billions of small plastic particles suspended in the water. Fish, birds, and other animals cannot tell this plastic from food, which causes microplastics to show up in the stomachs of animals that humans regularly eat. When it comes down to choosing whether to continue discarding single-use plastics or preserving worldwide environmental health, it seems pretty obvious that we need to start pursuing better recycling strategies.

New Circular Recycling Techniques Minimize Waste

Many in the plastics industry are starting to promote circular recycling as a way to reuse plastic goods and materials. This recycling practice takes into account a product’s capabilities for reuse at every stage of its production and use cycle. These stages can include the bottle producer, the brand owner, the retailer, the consumer, the collector, and the recycler.

At the heart of circular recycling is finding ways to turn waste into a new resource at each step of the production cycle. To get to this point, researchers are finding innovative new ways to collect and sort recyclable products. Many communities are also investing more resources toward educating consumers about recycling techniques, ensuring that more people and businesses do their part to reduce waste.

How Some Companies and Communities Are Already Implementing Circular Recycling

In these environmentally conscious times, customers are quick to reward companies that embark on aggressive waste-reduction initiatives. Businesses that use resources more efficiently also yield benefits in the form of better risk management of raw materials and improved approaches to the supply chain.

Some businesses are already taking the next step in pursuing circular recycling strategies. Coca-Cola recently unveiled its World Without Waste initiative at its plants in Mexico. There, Coca-Cola and its bottling partners have implemented strategies that have repurposed nearly 60% of Mexico’s plastic waste into new materials.

In another industry, the tire maker Omni United worked out a deal with Timberland, the shoe producer, to refashion old or excess rubber from tires into soles of Timberland shoes. And on the consumer end, the country of Estonia has implemented a program in which people can exchange recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, and cans for cash or charity donations.

Ingenious Recycling Solutions from Plastic Ingenuity

Plastic Ingenuity seeks to lead the way when it comes to sustainable plastic manufacturing. We recycle 100% of eligible material in all our operations, and we reprocess scrap plastic so that it doesn’t go to the landfill. We even use the excess heat from our plastic thermoforming processes to heat our warehouses. We will continue to develop sustainable and biodegradable materials that still adhere to the rigorous quality standards our customers have come to expect.

To learn more about how Plastic Ingenuity is bringing sustainability and green technology to the plastics industry, contact us today.

 


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