REDcycle’s demise is further proof that plastic recycling is a broken system


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This week the federal government join international agreements recycle, reuse 100% of plastic waste by 2040, end plastic pollution. But great obstacles stand in the way.

The most recent is the collapse of the largest building in Australia soft plastic recycling program, cycle RED. Show suspended after disclosure of soft plastic items collected at Woolworths and Coles has been reserved for months in stock and is not recycled.

The abrupt halt to the soft plastic recycling scheme has left many consumers extremely frustrated, and the feeling of betrayal is understandable. Recycling, with the familiar “chasing arrow” symbol, has been depicted with plastic industry as the answer to disposable plastic problem for many years.

But recycling is not a silver bullet. Most single-use plastics produced worldwide since the 1970s finished in landfills and the natural environment. Plastic can also be found in the food we eatand at deepest ocean floor.

The recent collapse of the soft plastic recycling program is further proof that plastic recycling is a broken system. Australia cannot achieve the new target by focusing solely on collection, recycling and disposal. System change is urgently needed.

Recycling is a market

Australia joined Highly Ambitious Coalition to End Plastic Pollutiona group of more than 30 countries co-led by Norway and Rwanda, which also includes the UK, Canada and France.

It aims to provide a global treaty forbidden plastic pollution by establishing global rules and obligations for the entire life cycle of plastics. This includes setting standards to reduce plastic production, consumption and waste. It will also facilitate a circular economy in which plastics are reduced, reused or recycled.

The idea behind recycling is simple. By recycling items into new products, we can conserve natural resources and reduce pollution.

Unfortunately, the recycling process is much more complicated and tied to the economic system. Recycling is a commodity market. Who buys what is often determined by the quality of the plastic.

In the middle of the chasing arrow icon is a number. If it’s one or two, it has a high value and will most likely be sold on the commodity market and recycled. Numbers three through seven indicate mixed resins, such as soft plastics, are considered low value.

Sadly, it usually costs more to recycle most plastics than to throw them away. Until 2018, Low value plastic is exported to China. Reliance on the global waste trade for decades has prevented many countries, including Australia, from developing advanced domestic recycling infrastructure.

What are the biggest problems?

One of the biggest problems with plastic recycling is the large variety of plastics that end up in the waste stream — foils, foams, bags, a variety of plastics, and various additives that further alter the properties of the plastic. plastic.

Most plastics can only be recycled in a pure and consistent form, and only a limited number of times. Furthermore, the urban plastic waste stream is difficult to segregate.

Achieving a high level of recycling in an existing system requires mixed plastics waste stream organized into hundreds of different sections. This is impractical and especially difficult for remote controls, low income communityusually far from the recycling facility.

For example, transparent developing world, single use “packet” size products are generally geared towards low socioeconomic communities and low-income families, who can buy most of their food in small daily servings.

Waste from small disposable packaging notoriously difficult to recycle and especially popular in remote and rural communities have less sophisticated waste management infrastructure.

More, high shipping cost involved in transporting plastic waste to recycling facilities makes recycling a difficult issue for remote communities everywhere, including Australian outback.

Doing wrong business

Worldwide plastic production and consumption per capita continues to increase, and expected to triple by 2060. For many consumer packaged goods companies, Recycling is still the main story in problem solving.

For example, a research this year looked at how companies in the food and beverage sector are tackling plastic packaging as part of their broader, proactive and sustainability agenda. It found the industry’s transition to sustainable packaging was “slow and inconsistent”, and in corporate sustainability reports most companies focused on recyclable content. and post-consumer initiatives rather than at-source solutions.

Despite the increasing responsibility of manufacturers, most companies in the FMCG sector doing very little to reduce single-use plastic packaging. Special consideration should be given to products sold in regions where there is a shortage waste regulatory infrastructure, such as in emerging economies.

Like a bandage on a bullet wound

The Australian government’s new target to end plastic pollution by 2040 is encouraging. But blaming recycling, consumer behavior and post-consumer “quick fix” solutions will only prolong the problem.

Amid the global plastic crisis, focusing on recycled content is like dressing a wound. We need better and more creative solutions to get rid of plastic faucets. This includes stronger legislation to deal with plastic waste and promote sustainable packaging.

One such approach is to set “expanded production responsibility” (EPR). This relates to laws and regulations that require plastic manufacturers and manufacturers to pay for the recycling and disposal of their products.

For example, in 2021, Maine becomes the first US state passed EPR legislation for plastic packaging. Maine’s EPR Policy Changes Recycling costs from taxpayers and local authorities to manufacturers and manufacturers of packaging. Companies that want to sell products in plastic packaging must pay a fee based on their packaging choices and offer easily recyclable product options.

Currently, the burden of managing plastic waste often rests with local and city councils. As a result, many cities around the world are championing EPR . program.

Everyone in the value chain has a responsibility to limit the use of single-use items. plastic and provide sustainable packaging alternatives to consumers. We need better product design and prevention through legislation.

Interestingly, businesses are transitioning to a more sustainable way of producing, distributing and reusing goods. more likely to enhance its competitive position.

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quote: REDcycle’s demise is further proof that plastic recycling is a broken system (2022, November 17) retrieved November 17, 2022 from 2022-11-redcycle-collapse-proof-plastic-recycling.html

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