Plastic Straws- A Great Place to Start a Recovery Question

The ban on plastic straws has started quite a discussion on the Plastics Engineers blog session.

I liked these comments from Robert Render Ravago Recycling Group.

“I have enjoyed the exchanges on this question. I believe we can all agree that reducing waste in manufacturing, in product design, and in teaching our communities about reducing waste in their lives is paramount. That to me is a separate topic with a separate set of questions. The question, “Is Recycling worth it” is misstated. The question should be Is Recovery worth it?

Recovery is a broader net to describe the activities surrounding waste and I believe easier for communities to grasp. Recycling is one path to Recovery  which can also include waste to energy, waste to fuel, beneficial re-use, and chemical recycling. In a world that emphasizes Recovery, waste is seen as an asset to manage and communities directed to make investments to maximize the value of those assets. 

We have enjoyed a long stable period of growth in recycling with the increased value of oil, new infrastructure for collection, and stable markets domestically and overseas, particularly in China. The emphasis on China has led us to be complacent in building out our own recovery infrastructure. It was easy to just load it in a container and ship it to China. Well, that boat has sailed and we need to rethink our entire processes and re-educate the public about recovery and recycling role. We can start by ending the battle over resin ID codes and update them to be meaningful. I have engaged many people on this topic who believe the number just means the material is recyclable with no connection to the original intent, which is just to identify the resin used in the part. Some states are taking matters into their own hands and creating new codes.

Next we need to rethink the public collection of waste and recyclables and prioritize education, collection stations, and infrastructure. This will help prevent waste on the roads, streams, and oceans. We as an industry need to make this happen to continue to enjoy growth and our own ability to support our families. I would like to see collection stations with out the word “trash”. We should have a bin for food waste, recycling, and energy recovery. 

Last, when thinking about recycling, we continue to ignore post-industrial recycling which is a robust, growing business segment with strong domestic markets. Companies are expanding operations to process materials once exported and companies are asking for more recycled content. Let’s expand the definition of recycling when we speak of it to include all methods and sources.”

Finally, in case you want to ban on plastics, here is some perspective from the plastics society regarding plastics and green house gases. Enjoy!!

Plastics Help Prevent Food Waste