Plastic Recycling Efforts Supported by Foundation
Plastic recycling has two halves: Plastic collection and reuse. The reuse technology has improved greatly in the last few years, while the plastic collection has slid some. PepsiCo Foundation has joined the efforts to bring back the consumer participation efforts.
Plastic trash must be separated from other trash, sorted based on the kind of plastic it is, then re-processed into resin pellets that can be shipped to plastic manufacturers such as Microdyne Plastics. Sorting technology has seen good advances in the last decade or two. Recent developments to combine recycled plastic resin with virgin plastic resin have improved to the point where many products can be made with 100% recycled material. Due to the higher costs, lower portions of recycled to virgin plastic can also be used. While certain uses (such as food or caustic substances) for containers prohibit the use of recycled resin, on the whole the sorting and reuse part of the industry is seeing rapid growth.
The problem with the plastic collection systems around the world now shifts to increasing the consumer participation and collection systems as the weak point. The Environmental Protection Agency states that plastic (PET) bottles and jars are recycled at the rate of just 29.9 percent and HDPE, high-density polyethylene bottles at 30.3 percent.[i] HDPE bottles can be recycled ten times, but consumers need to put them in the recycling bin first!
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles and jars—29.9 percent
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic natural bottles—30.3 percent
Emerging countries are the worst offenders. Ocean Conservancy reports says that Asian Pacific countries, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam make up 60% of the world’s sea plastic.
To this end Plastics News[ii], reported that the PepsiCo Foundation has committed $10 million of seed money to help with the goal of raising $100 million with various businesses and partners. The emphasis is to help stem the tide of declining recycling rates. Approximately half will fund easier ways for consumers to collect recyclables, and the remainder will be for consumer education programs. The foundation hopes to capture 5 billion bottles over a five-year period.
Environmental groups have gained some traction with the ocean plastic issues and point to single-use containers as one of the contributors, which it certainly is. However, with fishing plastics contributing over half of the ocean plastic, another effort by that industry may also be necessary. PepsiCo Foundation hopes that by increasing the recycling of single-use containers and with the new ability to reuses these plastics, that they may solve the container issue. But the consumer needs to buy in to accomplish a recycling program that can really make a difference. California has shown that recycling can be done, by achieving an 80% recycling rate. While this has declined in recent years some, the gap between California and the rest of the country at about 30% is very significant.
Reuse of plastics in the production cycle is now part of normal production. With more used plastic the prices can come down, making it cheaper to produce recycled products. So if this effort is to work, consumers must get on board.
The industry is concerned that if consumers don’t take the responsibility, the producer will be required to deal with the end-of-life recycling issues themselves, a solution that may likely cost much more than with consumers’ conscious help.
- When U.S. recycling levels reach 75 percent, it will be the environmental and CO2 equivalent of removing 55 million cars from U.S. roads each year.
- When U.S. recycling levels reach 75 percent, it will generate 1.5 million new jobs in the U.S. (net).
- Manufacturers truly want these materials back to reuse in their manufacturing, but they aren’t able to reuse the materials if people don’t recycle right.[iii]
Microdyne is committed to helping customers understand and use recycled resin and environmentally friendly resins in their products. We currently have several vendors for both recycled and biomass and CO2 reduced resin processes. Contact us for more details.
[i] EPA Stats, https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/frequent-questions-regarding-epas-facts-and#Percentages_of_Recycled_Materials