I enjoy running when I'm not thinking about tech. The subsidization is necessary, but it results in challenges with respect to how to effectively determine what should be recycled, and what should be dumped. Most of it starts on the earth as garbage on our beaches, streets, and sidewalks, and is lowered into rain channels, rivers, rivers and rivers that lead to the ocean. The main problem associated with recycling plastics is that in many cases, products which cannot be recycled are been produced from the recycled plastics. For the most part, the sachets, flex-packs, and laminated plastic pouches manufacturers are turning to are universally considered non-recyclable. China is no longer taking the world's waste. In fact, the current recycling system for plastics is actually one of the major contributors to plastic pollution around the world. Since China implemented stricter purity standards on the recycled goods they're willing to buy, recycling facilities are turning to A.I. However, it’s a good start and one we have to perfect before we can move on to more full-fledged solutions. Recovery rates for plastic bottles are improving; single-stream recycling has helped increase recovery rates for many previously non-recycling communities; consumers are demanding packaging be made with more sustainable materials, and manufacturers are starting to listen; exciting innovations in plastic recycling are being developed; many states have enacted extended producer responsibility legislation for certain forms of waste; and a growing number of municipalities are banning certain difficult-to-recycle plastic products and are developing their own waste reduction and recycling goals initiatives. About 700 million tons of plastic waste has been incinerated and about 2500 million tons remain in active use. Let’s look at the current state of plastic recycling, its challenges, and how people and groups around the world are working to address these challenges. Most of what is recovered consists of PET and HDPE, as they clearly dominate the plastic recyclables market. With consumers and the government outraged at the plastics crisis, the waste industry is scrambling to solve the problem. This website uses cookies for analytics, advertising and to improve our site. GreenBlue’s How2Recycle Label is another possible way forward, and is already being adopted by many of the world’s largest brands and product manufacturers. This is less of a concern when recycling rates are low (sending a lightweight pouch to landfill is better than sending a heavy rigid plastic with more mass), but once recycling rates start to increase, non-recyclable lightweight options make little sense from a sustainability perspective. Marine-based plastic pollution is already one of the world’s major environmental problems and campaigners say it is expanding at a catastrophic rate. This is the best way for plastic recycling facilities to overcome the disadvantage in economics compared to the continued manufacture and use of virgin plastics. While source reduction is typically a great idea (and can certainly have practical applications), the lightweighting trend does have some long-term side effects. Required fields are marked *, Subscribe to our newsletter to get interesting stories delivered to your inbox! It all comes down to providing consumers with enough information to make the proper disposal choice for each component of the product or package. Even when a plastic recycling system has been put in place, it will require the cooperation of various stakeholders. Technology to help with plastic sorting continues to be developed. Most material recovery facilities do not have the technology to process flexible packaging, which means that they often end up in landfills or get incinerated. This continuous increase has resulted in a cumulative total of 7.8 billion tons of plastic produced during this period, corresponding to more than one ton of plastic for each person alive as of the end of 2015. The responsibility then falls on the consumer to be aware of which resins are and are not accepted by their local municipal recycling program. • Your report (Global treaty to tackle plastic pollution gains steam without US and UK, 16 November) does not mention the two main components of microplastic… This corresponds to about 4600 million tons of accumulated plastic waste over the years. Plastics and their byproducts are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways, and contributing to health problems in … We pomise.). In 2013, it was announced that revisions to the resin identification code would eliminate the use of the “chasing arrows” symbol in favor of an equilateral triangle, and some #7 plastics (or “Other” for miscellaneous resins) will have to identify the resin type in addition to the code. The next best is white, as its only limit is that it cannot become clear, but can be made into any other color. 1) Light Bulbs CFLs – or compact fluorescent light bulbs – should never be thrown away because they contain a small amount of mercury. Here are Top 5 Solutions to Your Recycling Problems. Up until the 1980s, the idea of recycling plastic was unheard of. Some groups have also proposed requiring brands to display product labels that show recycled content, hoping that consumer-driven demand can act as the incentive to use more recycled material. This often leads to plastics being incinerated, which is a major waste of valuable resources. One of the key complications is that developed nations tend to under-price landfill space in order to help dissuade illegal dumping. Our growing consumption of single-use plastic is evident in the form of ever-expanding landfills, as well as pollution on our sidewalks, along roadways and in natural ecosystems. This can be particularly challenging for products with strict packaging requirements, such as food or beverages that must use certain packaging formats to increase shelf life and preserve the product. In many cases, manufacturing a product made of pure virgin plastic turns out to be cheaper blending in recycled materials. Nearly all the plastics in use are made from crude oil and resist any form of biological decomposition. If plastic products were consistent in their resin composition, color, transparency, weight and size, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation, as everything could be recycled together; this is more or less the case with aluminum, which enjoys the highest rates of global recycling. Due to lack of knowledge, different types of plastic are often combined in manufacturing processes, which makes recycling them much more difficult. Its operations will also require huge operating costs in terms of power, manpower, and equipment maintenance. This also means that plastic cannot be recycled infinitely, unlike glass or metal. However, this technology also has several limitations. In recent years, the price of oil has fallen rapidly, making it much cheaper to produce than to mess around with the recycled stuff. Recycled plastics account for only around 6 percent of demand in Europe. However, by recycling… Manufacturers who hope to ensure their post-consumer packaging can be properly recycled should consider the pigment and translucence of their bottles and containers. Although recycling any product for a different use is slightly better than producing plastic products from the raw materials, it means the product will only be recycled once. Recycling isn’t attractive when oil is below $100 per barrel, she says. Plastic recycling solutions that don't address the toxicity of the recycled product are part of future problems. Plastic is also harming animals and wildlife in rivers, lakes and oceans - they can get tangled up in plastic objects or can even eat them. The next category has a volume of less than half – the building and construction industry at only 65 million tons. The following are some of the common challenges. Experts believe that designing plastic packaging and other plastic products with recycling in mind can play a significant role in facing this challenge. The cost-effective and efficient recycling of the mixed plastic stream is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the recycling industry. For some types of recycling, this may be true -- the trade-off between new products and some forms of recycled plastic, for example, are questionable. The effects of microplastic ingestion have not been studied to great detail, but it has been linked to decreased metabolism and inhibited fertility. (There won’t be any spam. However, it’s also a very difficult step as it needs cooperation at the level of the consumers. A major part of why some countries have failed to adapt higher plastic recycling rates is a lack of government support to the initiative in the form of policy. Critics claim that recycling is simply a zero-sum game, where the pollutants and waste from making new goods shift into the recycling industry. THE PROBLEMS WITH PLASTICS | Ecology Center THE PROBLEMS WITH PLASTICS Americans are generating more plastic trash than ever, and very little of it gets recycled. Nevertheless, there are at least as many … This data emphasizes just how much of mismanaged plastic waste ends up in the ocean, further exacerbating its effect on marine life. This is great, but came with new drawbacks to consider. The UK also needs more advanced secondary market infrastructure in place to deal with hard-to-recycle items such as plastic … The process of recycling an old product into something reusable uses energy and creates pollution. In fact, the actual longevity of some plastic products has not yet been determined, given that they have only been around for less than 70 years. With millions of different plastic products and packages on the market, clearly this is not the case. : Recycling of waste plastics still remains a challenging area in the waste management sector. There are also composite plastic containers that use two different plastics. Any entrepreneur or reporter who pretends otherwise is … Have Sustainable Brands delivered right to your inbox. We do not need to be confronted with the numbers for us to recognize just how big the plastic waste problem is. Of the entire volume of plastics that have been produced since the 1950s, only 500 million tons (roughly 6%) have been recycled. Tom Szaky As far as humans are concerned, plastic waste has also been found in the food that we eat. Part of our investment discovery process at Loup is to identify large problems, define the problems in our structure of cost/convenience/moral, figure out the best way to solve the problem, then find the companies doing it., figure out the best way to solve the … This deficiency makes the economics of plastic recycling even worse. Get As we have gleaned, a plastic recycling facility is not as profitable as facilities that recycle metal or glass. The Problem with Plastic Millions of tonnes of plastics are used in the UK each year. Upwards of 100 million tons of plastic are manufactured annually across the globe. The U.S. recycling industry is overwhelmed — it can't keep up with the plastic being churned out. Low-income countries like India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Senegal, Myanmar, Haiti, Madagascar, and several dozen others have maintained a low per capita rate of generation of plastic waste. Product manufacturers need to come up with packaging solutions that are either biodegradable or more easily recycled. Consumers need to change their buying behaviors, favoring products that do not use non-recyclable plastics. "Unmoderated production of plastic products has resulted in unacceptable accumulation of debris in landfills and in natural environments, representing a gross waste of … And it uses a lot of energy to recycle. However, they can also be very tough to recycle. Clear plastics are always preferred in the recycled materials market, and have the highest material value. Some even make claims of biodegradability, which can be misleading when you consider that many should typically be sent to industrial composting facilities to fully break down. Looking only at the statistics of plastic production per country, it’s easy to spot a trend of rich countries generating more plastic waste. From the onset of plastic recycling in the 1980s to the present, the portion of plastic products that were recycled increased by an average of 0.7% per year. Even a PET container may not be recycled by some recycling facilities if it is colored and/or opaque. However, this trend does not hold when we look at the data of mismanaged plastic waste per country. By providing simple images and recycling instructions on each individual label, consumer-side confusion can be greatly mitigated. Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, the company recycling the non-recyclable; and Loop, the world’s first shopping system delivering products in reusable packaging. The other 400 million tons have also ended up either getting discarded in landfills or incinerated. In the past decades it has been widely adopted by industry, and plastic has become one of the most ubiquitous and versatile materials in the world – and, subsequently, one of the most difficult to reliably collect and recycle. The process of plastic recycling is far from perfect. The responsibility then falls on the consumer to be aware of which resins are and are not accepted by their local municipal recycling program. These small codes, printed on plastic bottles, containers and packages, have helped many recycling facilities and MRFs collect, sort and process higher volumes of plastic materials with greater accuracy. This doesn't bode well for our plastic waste problem. A classic example is the standard disposable coffee cup, which is made of paper and a thin film of polypropylene for water-resistance. This is determined by two factors – the market demand for recycled products and government support to incentivize or require plastic recycling. Significant capital will also have to be spent to implement a system for the collection and sorting of plastic waste. Plastic recycling advantages Plastic Recycling helps to reduce energy usage, It reduces the consumption of fresh raw materials, It reduces the water pollution and air pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for conventional waste disposal and it reduces greenhouse gases emissions. In today’s market, the only way to ensure plastics will be properly recycled is for manufacturers to make all of the above considerations when designing their products and packaging. Plastic is not intended to contaminate the ocean, but up to 13 million tons of plastic per year goes to marine waters. Ingested plastic waste can greatly reduce the stomach capacity of animals or eventually cause perforation or rupture of the gut. Before plastic waste even reaches a recycling facility, there are two hurdles to overcome – the fact that not all plastics are recyclable, and not all recyclable plastics are fit to be recycled. With such low margins, it is up to the federal or local governments to jumpstart a plastic recycling program through a combination of policy and capital infusion. Plastic pollution in waterways has long been known to have caused the death of marine species either by ingestion or entanglement. These have to be either separated by hand or by special equipment. This could help limit some of the confusion for consumers, especially as the new revisions continue to be adopted by manufacturers moving forward. We can help yo… This is likely due to the fact that microplastics are often found in the gut or intestinal tract of animals – parts that humans typically do not eat. Published Apr 22, 2015 3am EDT / 12am PDT / 8am BST / 9am CEST. For instance, common recyclable plastics include High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). 3D Insider publishes news, tutorials, and reviews about the latest emerging tech. The Anti-plastic Backlash in Response to Very Visible Pollution Problems Over the past several months in particular, there has been intense media coverage of marine plastic pollution, as … A truck has to come and get it from your house, and then it … About a 6 minute read. However, plastic waste in offshore environments tells a different story. Ingested plastic waste can greatly reduce the stomach capacity of animals or eventually cause Around 3% of plastic waste produced annually ends up in oceans – or about 8 million tons by the end of 2015. Behavioral change at such a massive scale is going to be a slow process and will require the support of environmental advocates and lawmakers. Plastic doesn’t take much energy to make the first time. Even for our most valuable plastics, what are the challenges that prevent us from reaching higher overall recovery rates? To this day, it can be argued that there is not a single country that has attained a sustainable level of plastic manufacture, use, and recycling. Plastic pollution in waterways has long been known to have caused the death of marine species either by ingestion or entanglement. Plastics recycling is failing, and the plastics industry is betting big on a technology called chemical recycling to save it. Many manufacturers have turned to packaging alternatives lauded for their eco-friendly or sustainable properties. Despite plastic recycling becoming available, why does solid plastic waste continue to be a problem? Plastic bottles need to be crushed and have their caps removed. On the other hand, plastics such as Polystyrene (PS) and Polypropylene (PP) are still widely used but remain non-recyclable. Legislation to support plastic recycling can range from outright banning of single-use plastics to setting required levels of recycled content in final goods. I love diving into the latest and greatest in emerging technologies and seeing what they can do. The accumulation of solid plastic waste continues to be one of the most pressing environmental problems we are facing today. The plastic that couldn’t be recycled was heaped onto “trash mountains.” According to Marcus, plastic waste is also difficult to recycle, because different types of plastic has different chemical compositions, and separating different types of plastic from each other is labor-intensive, Plastic is finding its way into marine life. However, looking at the per country share of mismanaged waste paints a different picture and highlights how many countries lack the facility or initiative to recycle plastics. By use, packaging of goods constitutes the greatest volume of usage of plastic products at around 141 million tons. From the 1950s to 2015, the production of plastic products grew from virtually zero to about 350 million tons per year. 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