The trend appears to be skewed towards middle-income countries such as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Fiji, Egypt, Malaysia, and South Africa. 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. This website uses cookies for analytics, advertising and to improve our site. Another issue is that not all plastic can be recycled. 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. Tom Szaky Upwards of 100 million tons of plastic are manufactured annually across the globe. Any entrepreneur or reporter who pretends otherwise is … I love diving into the latest and greatest in emerging technologies and seeing what they can do. Plastic is also harming animals and wildlife in rivers, lakes and oceans - they can get tangled up in plastic objects or can even eat them. Looking at the plastic production rates per country, China leads the pack by a huge margin at around 60 million tons. ready to have your mind expanded by the possibilities and taste a bit of the future before everyone else. In fact, the East Asia and Pacific regions account for about 60% of the global total for mismanaged plastic waste. It Upsets the Food Chain : Low-income countries do not generate a lot of waste per capita, while high-income countries have more developed plastic recycling facilities. From product design to waste sorting and collection, we can keep more plastic in circulation. 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. With millions of different plastic products and packages on the market, clearly this is not the case. This is the best way for plastic recycling facilities to overcome the disadvantage in economics compared to the continued manufacture and use of virgin plastics. Flexible plastic packaging such as plastic bags, films, and labels constitute a significant portion of daily plastic waste. 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. "Unmoderated production of plastic products has resulted in unacceptable accumulation of debris in landfills and in natural environments, representing a gross waste of … 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. The next category has a volume of less than half – the building and construction industry at only 65 million tons. There is good news ahead of us, however. Saturating MRFs with non-recyclable plastics can increase overhead sorting costs (only to be sent to landfill anyway). About 700 million tons of plastic waste has been incinerated and about 2500 million tons remain in active use. 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. Have Sustainable Brands delivered right to your inbox. 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%). The process of plastic recycling is far from perfect. As a testament to how long plastics take to break down, macroplastics (> 200 mm) dating back to the 1950s and 1960s have been found. With consumers and the government outraged at the plastics crisis, the waste industry is scrambling to solve the problem. By providing simple images and recycling instructions on each individual label, consumer-side confusion can be greatly mitigated. We can help yo… The responsibility then falls on the consumer to be aware of which resins are and are not accepted by their local municipal recycling program. On the other hand, plastics such as Polystyrene (PS) and Polypropylene (PP) are still widely used but remain non-recyclable. 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. Required fields are marked *, Subscribe to our newsletter to get interesting stories delivered to your inbox! China is no longer taking the world's waste. As we have gleaned, a plastic recycling facility is not as profitable as facilities that recycle metal or glass. As far as humans are concerned, plastic waste has also been found in the food that we eat. Your email address will not be published. The ever-growing consumption of goods packaged in plastic and the superior economics of plastic production has made this material an unavoidable part of our daily lives. Marine-based plastic pollution is already one of the world’s major environmental problems and campaigners say it is expanding at a catastrophic rate. Fill out the requested information below, and we'll get back to you shortly. 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. Nevertheless, there are at least as many … Many manufacturers have turned to packaging alternatives lauded for their eco-friendly or sustainable properties. A more pronounced trend shows that mismanaged plastic wastes are concentrated in countries with large coastal populations. (There won’t be any spam. In recent years, the price of oil has fallen rapidly, making it much cheaper to produce than to mess around with the recycled stuff. If plastic products were consistent in their resin composition, color, transparency, weight and size, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation, as everything could be recycled together; this is more or less the case with aluminum, which enjoys the highest rates of global recycling. For instance, common recyclable plastics include High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). For this reason some recycling facilities consider certain pigmented plastics contaminants to the recycler stream, and subsequently dispose of them instead of recycle them. Recycled plastics account for only around 6 percent of demand in Europe. 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. Plastic pollution in waterways has long been known to have caused the death of marine species either by ingestion or entanglement. 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. 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. Despite plastic recycling becoming available, why does solid plastic waste continue to be a problem? This doesn't bode well for our plastic waste problem. This can be particularly challenging for products with strict packaging requirements, such as food or beverages that must use certain packaging formats to increase shelf life and preserve the product. While source reduction is typically a great idea (and can certainly have practical applications), the lightweighting trend does have some long-term side effects. Leading the pack are countries like Norway, the US, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, and Hong Kong. Published Apr 22, 2015 3am EDT / 12am PDT / 8am BST / 9am CEST. However, this trend does not hold when we look at the data of mismanaged plastic waste per country. 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Moreover, there were also microplastic (< 4.75 mm) samples collected that can be traced to earlier than 1990. Even when a plastic recycling system has been put in place, it will require the cooperation of various stakeholders. However, they can also be very tough to recycle. In contrast, middle-income countries have undergone rapid industrialization but have failed to in developing their waste management technologies. As of the end of 2015, a staggering 55% of all plastic products end up in landfills. 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. 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. However, by recycling… 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. The U.S. recycling industry is overwhelmed — it can't keep up with the plastic being churned out. Most of these take the form of microplastics, although plastic fibers have also been detected in items such as salt, beer, or honey. We do not need to be confronted with the numbers for us to recognize just how big the plastic waste problem is. There are also composite plastic containers that use two different plastics. By use, packaging of goods constitutes the greatest volume of usage of plastic products at around 141 million tons. Technology to help with plastic sorting continues to be developed. Plastic is not intended to contaminate the ocean, but up to 13 million tons of plastic per year goes to marine waters. Significant capital will also have to be spent to implement a system for the collection and sorting of plastic waste. What’s Your Organization’s Carbon Budget? There’s a war on plastic – government around the world are trying to cut the amount we use it. The Anti-plastic Backlash in Response to Very Visible Pollution Problems Over the past several months in particular, there has been intense media coverage of marine plastic pollution, as … 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. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that we can’t recycle ourselves out of our ongoing plastic problem. The UK also needs more advanced secondary market infrastructure in place to deal with hard-to-recycle items such as plastic … In fact, many consumers have indicated that they are confused about which plastics they can and cannot recycle. Nearly all the plastics in use are made from crude oil and resist any form of biological decomposition. 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. Around 3% of plastic waste produced annually ends up in oceans – or about 8 million tons by the end of 2015. Plastic doesn’t take much energy to make the first time. 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. Up until the 1980s, the idea of recycling plastic was unheard of. Recycling in the U.S. is broken. These have to be either separated by hand or by special equipment. This often leads to plastics being incinerated, which is a major waste of valuable resources. Behavioral change at such a massive scale is going to be a slow process and will require the support of environmental advocates and lawmakers. 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. The Problem with Plastic Millions of tonnes of plastics are used in the UK each year. For the most part, the sachets, flex-packs, and laminated plastic pouches manufacturers are turning to are universally considered non-recyclable. In the late 80s, the Society of the Plastics Industry developed the resin identification codeto help recycling facilities identify the plastics they were processing. Published 5 years ago. Even a PET container may not be recycled by some recycling facilities if it is colored and/or opaque. This deficiency makes the economics of plastic recycling even worse. 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