Plastic recycling has taken some heavy hits over the last few years, but new technology promises a new era for plastic waste.
While many plastics remain highly recyclable, the market for these waste plastics has diminished recently, due in large part to China's ban on plastic and other wastes in 2018.
In the first year of the ban, plastics imports to China plummeted by 99 percent, which led to a major global shift in where and how waste plastics and other materials are being processed.
Across the globe, for the last two and half years now, waste plastics have ended up in landfills, incinerators, or simply littering the landscape. This is because of the rising costs of hauling away recyclable materials has rendered that option unprofitable.
Plastic Production is Up, But Nowhere to Go
As a nation, we produce incredible volumes of plastic products. And now a large amount of that, which ends up as waste materials, has nowhere to go.
A large factor is the sudden costs related to processing recyclable plastics after the China ban. A report from Columbia University noted that,
"As a result, U.S. processing facilities and municipalities have either had to pay more to recycle or simply discard the waste. In 2017, Stamford, CT made $95,000 by selling recyclables; in 2018, it had to pay $700,000 to have them removed. Bakersfield, CA used to earn $65 a ton from its recyclables; after 2018, it had to pay $25 a ton to get rid of them. Franklin, NH had been able to sell its recyclables for $6 a ton; now the transfer station charges $125 a ton to recycle the material or $68 a ton to incinerate it."
According to an article from the Yale School of the Environment,
"Prior to China’s ban, 95 percent of the plastics collected for recycling in the European Union and 70 percent in the U.S. were sold and shipped to Chinese processors. There, they were turned into forms to be repurposed by plastic manufacturers."
So, how much plastic do we produce?
No one really knows for sure how much new plastic material is made, but we do have some data on how much plastic gets disposed of each year. According to the EPA, for example, the United States throws out over 35,370,000 tons annually. This means that the approximately 25 million tons we used to send to China has to go somewhere else - or stay here.
But there's some good news for waste plastics.
On the Road Again - As Pavement
One of the most innovative and exciting developments in the realm of plastics recycling is the creation of paving material using recycled PET plastic. The plastic is used as a substitute for bitumen, the material left over from oil refining that is traditionally used to hold asphalt together.
An article in Fast Company relates that,
“'New synthetic binders are going to transform the global road construction or road rehabilitation marketplace, and they’re going to allow for roads to be 100% recycled,' says Sean Weaver, president of TechniSoil Industrial, the company that designed the new process."
And, according to the BBC, another company in Scotland has also developed a process for paving existing roads. The BBC report noted,
"A one-kilometre stretch of road made with its mix would use the equivalent of about 684,000 plastic bottles or 1.8 (million) single-use plastic bags."
These particular developments promise to utilize millions of tons of recyclable plastic in the U.S. alone.
Building America - As Plastic Blocks
Another promising development is the "Silica-Plastic Block", or SPB. By combining waste plastic with traditional materials for creating clay bricks and other masonry materials, not only do waste plastics find a new destination, but also produce superior building products.
"ByFusion aims to make building more sustainable. The company created ByBlock, the first construction-grade brick made entirely out of recycled plastic materials.
Each brick is made by heating, compressing and fusing the recycled materials together. It’s for this reason that ByBlock boasts itself as the ultimate landfill diversion solution. ByFusion works with material recycling facilities, waste management operations, municipalities and corporate partners to upcycle their rubbish. The zero-waste process uses a whopping 30 tons of trash per month."
These are just a few of the many innovations in plastic waste reuse and recycling that have been achieved in just that last few years. And part of the key to the eventual success of these processes and products is that ready availability of clean, recyclable waste plastics.
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There is a truly simple and efficient option and that's calling Junk King.
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Whatever your junk consists of, Junk King can help you get it out of the way. We provide an eco-friendly junk removal service to help you get rid of any unwanted junk, large trash items, or any old appliances.
Our professional and insured appliance disposal team will show up at your home or office; we call 15 minutes before we arrive on site and we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk takes up in our truck. You point and we haul your unwanted items into our junk removal trucks, with no hidden fees.
It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3. You make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).