problems with recycling plastic

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. In recent years, the price of oil has fallen rapidly, making it much cheaper to produce than to mess around with the recycled stuff. Plastic recycling faces many challenges, ranging from mixed plastics to hard-to-remove residues. Nearly all the plastics in use are made from crude oil and resist any form of biological decomposition. Leading the pack are countries like Norway, the US, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, and Hong Kong. One of the key complications is that developed nations tend to under-price landfill space in order to help dissuade illegal dumping. Get This deficiency makes the economics of plastic recycling even worse. However, the sheer diversity of different plastic products remains to be a problem that is yet to be fully addressed. 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. By providing simple images and recycling instructions on each individual label, consumer-side confusion can be greatly mitigated. The trend appears to be skewed towards middle-income countries such as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Fiji, Egypt, Malaysia, and South Africa. This might be because of the way it is made up or because it is too expensive or difficult to do. Based on studies conducted on plastic waste that has ended up in shorelines and coastal regions, researchers have found that around 79% of macroplastics are less than 5 years old. In fact, the current recycling system for plastics is actually one of the major contributors to plastic pollution around the world. Clorox Signs “America Is All In” Statement in Support of Action on Climate Change, NFL, PepsiCo Team Up to Score Zero Waste at Super Bowl LII, Q&A: How Schneider Electric’s NEO Network Is Shaping the Future of Renewables in Europe, Unilever Brings Sustainable Beauty to the Masses with Love Beauty and Planet Line, ‘Modern Metropolis’: Newsy Docuseries Examines the Collaborations Creating Sustainable Cities, Visa Outlines Ways to Improve Daily Travel for Smarter, More Efficient Cities, Sustana Group’s New Sustainability Strategy Highlights Environmental Stewardship, Sets Measurable Goals, Getting Creative to Create Organizational Change, New Guidelines, 2020 Brand Audit Aim to Finally Move the Needle on Corporate Plastic Stewardship, Brewed Responsibly: How Smart Craft Brewers Are Cleaning Up Our Favorite Beverage. Low-income countries do not generate a lot of waste per capita, while high-income countries have more developed plastic recycling facilities. We have the tools and knowledge to create circular recycling for plastics. This is determined by two factors – the market demand for recycled products and government support to incentivize or require plastic recycling. There are also composite plastic containers that use two different plastics. Notable examples include China, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. As of the end of 2015, a staggering 55% of all plastic products end up in landfills. 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. 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. This often leads to plastics being incinerated, which is a major waste of valuable resources. revisions to the resin identification code, extended producer responsibility legislation, banning certain difficult-to-recycle plastic products, Sustainable Brands Announces 2017 SB Innovation Open Winner, 2 Dope Boys & a Podcast: How to Avoid Brand 'Eff Ups' and Cultural Misalignments, Sustainable Brands Hosts Influential Brand Leaders at SB’17 Detroit. China is no longer taking the world's waste. The US comes in at second at 38 million tons. From the 1950s to the 1980s, plastics were either simply discarded into landfills or incinerated. No More Fossil Fuels Fossil fuels come from the fossilized remains of small water creatures and plant matter that existed during the Carboniferous Period, which occurred about 359 to 299 million years ago. Manufacturers who hope to ensure their post-consumer packaging can be properly recycled should consider the pigment and translucence of their bottles and containers. One great hope is chemical recycling: turning … The key problem, according to the recyclers, is competition from virgin plastic. Since China implemented stricter purity standards on the recycled goods they're willing to buy, recycling facilities are turning to A.I. About 700 million tons of plastic waste has been incinerated and about 2500 million tons remain in active use. With consumers and the government outraged at the plastics crisis, the waste industry is scrambling to solve the problem. Plastics recycling is failing, and the plastics industry is betting big on a technology called chemical recycling to save it. A truck has to come and get it from your house, and then it … The following are some of the common challenges. While the U.S. as a whole may be a ways off from emulating European (or even Californian) recycling models, we are seeing many key innovations and improvements that are helping to make it become a reality. The effects of microplastic ingestion have not been studied to great detail, but it has been linked to decreased metabolism and inhibited fertility. However, it’s a good start and one we have to perfect before we can move on to more full-fledged solutions. There’s also the fact that plastic degrades in quality every time it is recycled, making it necessary for “recycled” plastic products to have a blend of both recycled and virgin materials to ensure good product quality. Despite plastic recycling becoming available, why does solid plastic waste continue to be a problem? In the United States, our recovery rate for all plastic rests at 9 percent, according to the most recent Municipal Solid Waste report from the EPA. We are on the right path toward better recovery rates and more efficient recycling processes, even if it has been (and will continue to be) a bumpy road ahead. The U.S. recycling industry is overwhelmed — it can't keep up with the plastic being churned out. The limitation in plastic recycling isn’t just limited to middle-income countries and those in coastal areas. In contrast, middle-income countries have undergone rapid industrialization but have failed to in developing their waste management technologies. That’s 200 billion pounds of new material on-market every year, ready to be thermoformed, laminated, foamed and extruded into billions of products and packages. 1) Light Bulbs CFLs – or compact fluorescent light bulbs – should never be thrown away because they contain a small amount of mercury. However, the level at which different people and different countries are invested in helping solve the problem vary greatly. The current and potential goals proposed on EU or … There is good news ahead of us, however. Recycling isn’t attractive when oil is below $100 per barrel, she says. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that we can’t recycle ourselves out of our ongoing plastic problem. Plastic to be recycled needs to be clean and free from food residue. About a 6 minute read. As a testament to how long plastics take to break down, macroplastics (> 200 mm) dating back to the 1950s and 1960s have been found. The responsibility then falls on the consumer to be aware of which resins are and are not accepted by their local municipal recycling program. A classic example is the standard disposable coffee cup, which is made of paper and a thin film of polypropylene for water-resistance. Even in countries with well-developed plastic recycling facilities, there are still technological limitations that prevent them from attaining higher recycling rates. 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. 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. Here are Top 5 Solutions to Your Recycling Problems. Even for our most valuable plastics, what are the challenges that prevent us from reaching higher overall recovery rates? Fortunately, technology now exists to recycle plastic products. The term plastic is, in fact, a collective name for several hundred different kinds of material. The main problem associated with recycling plastics is that in many cases, products which cannot be recycled are been produced from the recycled plastics. With millions of different plastic products and packages on the market, clearly this is not the case. I love diving into the latest and greatest in emerging technologies and seeing what they can do. The process of plastic recycling is far from perfect. Tom Szaky Due to lack of knowledge, different types of plastic are often combined in manufacturing processes, which makes recycling them much more difficult. The other problem is that recycling sites deal with huge and constant streams of waste, and have to separate out material that can be recycled from material that can't. The peculiar thing about the plastic waste problem is the fact that just about every single person in the world knows about it and recognizes it. 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. It all comes down to providing consumers with enough information to make the proper disposal choice for each component of the product or package. The Problem with Plastic Millions of tonnes of plastics are used in the UK each year. And it uses a lot of energy to recycle. 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 PROBLEMS WITH PLASTICS | Ecology Center THE PROBLEMS WITH PLASTICS Americans are generating more plastic trash than ever, and very little of it gets recycled. Consumers need to change their buying behaviors, favoring products that do not use non-recyclable plastics. Many manufacturers have turned to packaging alternatives lauded for their eco-friendly or sustainable properties. 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 … Your email address will not be published. Ingested plastic waste can greatly reduce the stomach capacity of animals or eventually cause We pomise.). Plastics and their byproducts are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways, and contributing to health problems in … These have to be either separated by hand or by special equipment. 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. Recycled plastics account for only around 6 percent of demand in Europe. Recycling in the U.S. is broken. In countries like China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand, a cursory walk down any street will reveal plastic packaging that is not segregated in any form to prepare them for recycling. 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 corresponds to about 4600 million tons of accumulated plastic waste over the years. What’s Your Organization’s Carbon Budget? 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. The chief concern is that current RICs look strikingly similar to the universal recycling symbol, causing many consumers to mix non-recyclable plastics into the recycling bin. The next category has a volume of less than half – the building and construction industry at only 65 million tons. The cost-effective and efficient recycling of the mixed plastic stream is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the recycling industry. For the most part, the sachets, flex-packs, and laminated plastic pouches manufacturers are turning to are universally considered non-recyclable. Recycling and composting have reduced how much greenhouse gas was released. However, by recycling… Plastic is not intended to contaminate the ocean, but up to 13 million tons of plastic per year goes to marine waters. Moreover, there were also microplastic (< 4.75 mm) samples collected that can be traced to earlier than 1990. 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. 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. But does the science make sense? In 1960, Americans generated 2.68 pounds of garbage per day; by 2017, it had grown to an average of 4.51 pounds. (There won’t be any spam. Then there are bioplastics produced with renewable materials, such as plant biomass. This is great, but came with new drawbacks to consider. 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. Ingested plastic waste can greatly reduce the stomach capacity of animals or eventually cause perforation or rupture of the gut. However, the colored plastics (especially opaque varieties) are often limited to become darker shades of the original dye, or black. 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. Collection and sorting remain to be the most critical parts of the process, as it ensures that there is a constant stream of materials for the recycling plant to work with. : Recycling of waste plastics still remains a challenging area in the waste management sector. 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. 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. Even a PET container may not be recycled by some recycling facilities if it is colored and/or opaque. This issue is extenuated with the low cost of oil, as that makes it even harder for recyclers to compete with the price of virgin polymers. This also means that plastic cannot be recycled infinitely, unlike glass or metal. Even when a plastic recycling system has been put in place, it will require the cooperation of various stakeholders. For instance, common recyclable plastics include High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). Plastic bottles need to be crushed and have their caps removed. This website uses cookies for analytics, advertising and to improve our site. Significant capital will also have to be spent to implement a system for the collection and sorting of plastic waste. While source reduction is typically a great idea (and can certainly have practical applications), the lightweighting trend does have some long-term side effects. Putting up a recycling facility requires a lot of capital and technical capability. However, this trend does not hold when we look at the data of mismanaged plastic waste per country. To date, there has no concrete evidence of harmful health effects to humans of ingesting microplastics or ingesting animals with traces of microplastics. Published Apr 22, 2015 3am EDT / 12am PDT / 8am BST / 9am CEST. Behavioral change at such a massive scale is going to be a slow process and will require the support of environmental advocates and lawmakers. Dyed and pigmented plastics, for example, can be troubling for materials recovery facilities (MRFs) as they have a much lower market value. 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. For this reason some recycling facilities consider certain pigmented plastics contaminants to the recycler stream, and subsequently dispose of them instead of recycle them. While some varieties, especially the durable ones, can be regularly recycled alongside conventional plastics, others are viewed as contaminating materials and, as such, must be sent to landfill. The gravity of the problem of mismanaged plastics lies in the fact that they can persist for several decades, even if they eventually end up breaking down as microplastics. 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. By use, packaging of goods constitutes the greatest volume of usage of plastic products at around 141 million tons. 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. From product design to waste sorting and collection, we can keep more plastic in circulation. Its operations will also require huge operating costs in terms of power, manpower, and equipment maintenance. In the late 80s, the Society of the Plastics Industry developed the resin identification codeto help recycling facilities identify the plastics they were processing. We do not need to be confronted with the numbers for us to recognize just how big the plastic waste problem is. 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. 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. There’s a war on plastic – government around the world are trying to cut the amount we use it. From the 1950s to 2015, the production of plastic products grew from virtually zero to about 350 million tons per year. Up until the 1980s, the idea of recycling plastic was unheard of. In fact, the East Asia and Pacific regions account for about 60% of the global total for mismanaged plastic waste. 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. Around 3% of plastic waste produced annually ends up in oceans – or about 8 million tons by the end of 2015. The next best is white, as its only limit is that it cannot become clear, but can be made into any other color. Marine-based plastic pollution is already one of the world’s major environmental problems and campaigners say it is expanding at a catastrophic rate. Flexible plastic packaging such as plastic bags, films, and labels constitute a significant portion of daily plastic waste. 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. Most of these take the form of microplastics, although plastic fibers have also been detected in items such as salt, beer, or honey. Plastic recycling solutions that don't address the toxicity of the recycled product are part of future problems. Fill out the requested information below, and we'll get back to you shortly. In many cases, manufacturing a product made of pure virgin plastic turns out to be cheaper blending in recycled materials. With so many expenses involved, it is important for plastic recycling to be economically sustainable. As far as humans are concerned, plastic waste has also been found in the food that we eat. 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. 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. The chief concern is that current RICs look strikingly similar to the universal recycling symbol, causing many consumers to mix non-recyclable plastics into the recycling bin. It’s expensive, requires a lot of work, and does not fully address the problem of plastic waste accumulation. 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. However, plastic waste in offshore environments tells a different story. Sorting is a significant bottleneck in the plastic recycling process. Upwards of 100 million tons of plastic are manufactured annually across the globe. On the other hand, plastics such as Polystyrene (PS) and Polypropylene (PP) are still widely used but remain non-recyclable. Multilayered and other forms of lightweight packaging are one increasingly popular example. However, this technology also has several limitations. The UK also needs more advanced secondary market infrastructure in place to deal with hard-to-recycle items such as plastic … Plastic that is littered or blown out of waste bins makes its way into storm drains, streams and rivers. 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. 3D Insider publishes news, tutorials, and reviews about the latest emerging tech. To tackle plastic contamination, all recycling should be collected as loose, co-mingled material, to ensure that fewer plastic bags can enter the recycling stream in the first place. China still leads by accounting for about 28% of mismanaged plastics, but the rest of the group is dominated by countries in South Asia – Indonesia (10%), Philippines (6%), Vietnam (6%), and Thailand (3.2%). Of this portion, only 100 million tons remain in active use. … This emphasizes how heavily plastic production can be reduced by using non-plastic alternatives for product packaging. This is especially true of middle-income countries that have poor support for plastic recycling. The process of recycling an old product into something reusable uses energy and creates pollution. We'd love to hear from you. 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