Plastic recycling has been both a boon and a burden for manufacturers and recyclers largely because not all types of plastic can be recycled economically.
Yet other plastics end up as new products every day. Fortunately, innovation and technology are being combined and utilized to create new uses for problem plastics.
When Plastic is Recyclable. But It's Not.
All plastic is not created equal.
And some plastics, while they're inherently recyclable, don't process well and tend to clog up the sorting machinery. Then there are economic and commercial demands. Not every plastic has the same value in the manufacturing market.
It's an unfortunate but logical reality - if demand is low, then there is little economic incentive to recycle certain materials, no matter how "green" everyone would like to be.
For example, according to an entry in Wikipedia,
"PET and HDPE have the highest recycling rates, whereas polystyrene and polyurethane are often barely recycled at all. One of the reasons for low levels of plastic recycling is weak demand from manufactures, who fear that recycled plastics will have poor or inconsistent mechanical properties."
At the risk of getting a bit technical, PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. It is frequently used in fibers for clothing products, for liquids and food containers, and in thermoforming to create usable products, among other things.
HDPE plastic, like PET, is used in a wide variety of products such as water bottles, milk jugs, cleaning product bottles, cutting boards, and piping, just to name a few.
Polyurethane foam, on the other hand, is produced through a cross-chemistry process that makes it resistant to melting and reformation. For the most part, its' recycling options are limited to shredding.
And polystyrene foam or as most of us know it - Styrofoam® - can be recycled but most polystyrene products are not recycled due to the lack of economic incentive to invest in the compactors and logistical systems required.
So, how much plastic waste actually ends up being recycled as opposed to landfilled or burned?
According to figures from UNEP.org,
"Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated, while the rest — 79% — has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment."
That's globally. In the U.S. it's not much different.
While the EPA reports that in 2018, the recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.1 percent in and the rate for HDPE natural bottles was 29.3 percent, the total percentage of plastics actually recycled overall was just 8.7 percent.
Which is just another way of saying that 27 million tons of plastic ended up in landfills, almost 20 percent of the total waste landfilled.
Good News! We're Making Progress.
As distressing as those figures are, the truth today is that breakthroughs in plastic waste reuse as well as recycling are bringing promising results and potential.
For example, according one news story, a Los Angeles-based company has created a new process for producing building materials from waste plastic.
"ByFusion uses a combination of steam and compression to shape all kinds of plastics, even nonrecyclables, into standard building blocks called ByBlocks.
And a group of chemists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered a method to break down plastics to create a new material that is stronger and tougher than the original material, making them more valuable and easier to recycle.
Then there's park benches made from reclaimed bottle caps in eastern Ohio. Turning plastic pieces, like caps and lids, into benches and other products is something that Plastics-R-Unique does daily, according to a recent story in The Daily Record.
Stories of breakthroughs and advances in plastic recycling like these are numerous. And the are just the beginning as individuals, corporations, start-ups, and municipalities continue to invest and collaborate to find solutions to a pressing problem.
And when you find yourself "holding the bag" with large amounts of plastic waste such as boxes, industrial containers, plastic pallets, and other bulk plastic items, you can look to Junk King for help.
Junk King: Your Green Partners for Recycling Bulk Plastic and Waste
We can provide you with a truly green, simple, and efficient option for all your recycling needs.
Junk King provides professional junk hauling services to remove any types of junk including anything made with glass, metal, paper, and plastic. And we work hard to recycle as much of all the junk we pick up each day.
We can even remove your old furniture, yard waste, and excess garbage, as well.
Junk King has the equipment and teams for removing large refrigerators and other appliances, and we can move them down stairways, up basement steps, or out through garages.
Whatever type of junk you have, we will always try to recycle everything and anything you have. We provide an eco-friendly junk removal service to help you get rid of any unwanted junk, large plastic trash items. Of course, we'll take your old furniture, electronics or any old appliances, too!
If you are stuck with large amounts of waste plastic, Junk King can help you get it out of the way!
Our professional and insured junk removal team will show up at your home or office, and we'll call 15 to 30 minutes before we arrive. Once there, we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk takes up in our truck.
So, are you ready to get rid of that "unwanted" plastic waste? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
Make an appointment with us by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).