Continuing his thoughts on waste, Michael Hall takes us further through the life cycle of recycled plastic.
I got to the point last time saying how we all feel so much better we are recycling everything we can – well most of us can say that! The question then is having responsibly seen the waste into the system that ends up at the recycling centre who are going to do their utmost to avoid land-fill – what happens next?
Perhaps stacks are exported to Malaysia and Indonesia because China rejects most plastic waste now unless it is a specific high grade? Isn’t that just pushing the problem somewhere else and not helping to solve the problem?
Reusing it is better although sometimes what’s involved in separating, cleaning, drying, shredding and flaking is not as pure as virgin – anyway you can’t keep doing it as generally the molecular structure loosens so there is a limit to the times this is possible.
So burning it to produce energy must be better and it probably is a bit – but it’s not the best option either.
Finding a way to use mixed recycled plastic from its bundled up stack into a product that is useful and never needs to be destroyed again is a very good plan. The circular economy relies on this and plenty of brains out there are working on solutions that are promising.
But it has to be a big idea to match the sheer scale of the problem, tinkering helps but has little real impact. Then it has to be refined to every different set of circumstances both by country and culture.
Think of it this way, a small spark sets off a fire that becomes an inferno. There is a wonderful young group in Belgium who have made a start – Precious Plastic www.preciousplastic.com – it’s great what they are beginning to achieve.
We too have been thinking along similar lines, but thinking isn’t the same as doing so we are determined to practice what we preach and hope a few more people will listen.
My final article will tell you what we are actively doing now.
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