Andres Morales Gonzalez
Major Challenges for the Plastic Recycling Industry
It is well known that plastic waste is a huge problem for the environment. Many types of plastics take up to a thousand years to break down, meaning that plastic waste will be with us for a very long time. Additionally, plastic waste can be found even in the most remote areas of the earth, creating many problems for people and animals.
Fortunately, companies like ours have put forth substantial efforts towards creating a circular economy, helping eliminate plastic waste. Still, there are a number of major challenges that the plastic recycling industry faces. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable challenges currently being addressed and how you can help.
One of the most important challenges lies in educating the public more about the process of plastic recycling. Some people do not realize that plastics can be recycled while other people do not know the process. Changing consumer behavior begins with helping to educate people about the benefits and process of plastic recycling.
Additionally, changing consumer behavior requires being able to make plastic recycling more accessible to more people. This often involves working with cities and other municipalities to strengthen their existing recycling collection programs, which serve to start funneling products into the recycling process.
Another major challenge for the plastic recycling industry has to do with sorting plastic. What many people do not realize is that the term plastic is somewhat of a catch-all term that applies to thousands of different types of materials. There are seven major classifications of plastic. These classifications relate to the major properties of the type of plastic and are identified by something known as a Resin Identification Code.
PET has a code of 1 and is a commonly recycled material that we use to make rPET and rPET flakes. Roughly 36% of PET is recycled each year. There are other types of plastics that are commonly recycled while some types are rarely recycled or even difficult to recycle. Sorting these types of plastics can be time consuming and sometimes labor intensive either at the site of collection or later in the recycling process.
One challenge for the recycling industry lies in the way that many products are designed. There are many things that are manufactured in a way that makes them difficult to recycle. For example, plastics can be combined with glue or screws, which makes it difficult to separate the plastic from the rest of a product. This can add time and expense to the recycling process for some products.
A solution to this problem involves considering the goal of recycling during the design process. Identifying ways to make it easier to recycle the plastic from a product can be quite useful in improving the efficacy of the recycling industry as well as the likelihood that the end user will chose to recycle the product.
Value to Producers
While everyone likely sees the value of recycling products to create a circular economy, one challenge that can sometimes arise is making recycled plastic valuable as a source material for manufacturers. In some situations, producers are able to access new materials cheaper than recycled materials. In other situations, there may be concerns about the characteristics of recycled materials for certain products.
Fortunately, this is not a concern when it comes to rPET, which has many affordable uses and is incredibly durable. However, this definitely is something that needs to be considered in the industry overall. Thus, people are constantly investigating identifying new, innovative uses for recycled material.
Availability of Recycled Materials
A final challenge worth discussing is the availability of recycled materials to manufacturers. If a manufacturer wants to utilize recycled materials as part of their production process but is unable to locate them, that is a problem.
Thus, it is important to expand the recycling industry in order to provide manufacturers with the resources they need to become part of a circular economy. This is one of the reasons that we are expanding our operations at producing rPET sheets. Providing greater production of recycled materials leads to a greater overall benefit.
Our Role in the Process
The plastic recycling industry is absolutely essential towards tackling a major societal and environmental problem. While there are many challenges that face the industry, we are committed to continue to do the important work necessary to address these and strengthen the recycling industry and integration of plastics into a circular economy.