Recycling: It’s Complicated

It’s best to just #SAYNOTOPLASTICS in the first place. Find a way. It’s possible. And it’s necessary. Soon enough it’ll be inevitable.

Waste Only

How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World

But even as WRAP promotes the message that plastic film can and should be recycled, and scolds people who don’t put plastic bags in recycle bins, many of the used bags and other plastic waste it collects wind up being burned or sent to landfills. According to the most recent report on plastic film recycling published in July by the ACC, the amount collected in the U.S. and sold for recycling fell from 1.3 billion to 1.0 billion pounds between 2016 and 2017 — and that was before China’s restriction on plastic waste imports was fully implemented. The ACC report admitted that some of the bags wound up where they would have if they didn’t first make a brief stop in a bag-recycling bin. “Due to a lack of buyers — for the quality and amount of material available — towards the end of 2017, landfilling material started to be more economical (despite diversion or other environmental goals) than covering the handling and shipping costs of getting material to market.”

It’s not clear what happened to the 300 million pounds of film that were sold for recycling in 2016 but not in 2017.

“600 million pounds of plastic bags collected for recycling in North America in 2018 was landfilled or incinerated due to lack of end-markets.”

a group of plastics recyclers called Recycle More Bags
Say NO to plastics

THIS SATURDAY AT 11 AM Wilminton In Transition Tour of Eco Plastics and Liqid Alchemy

How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World

Wilmington In Transition

Wilmington In Transition Most municipal recycling programs don’t accept shopping bags and other flexible plastic, which can snag machines. So WRAP directs consumers to bring it to local take-back centers, which collect the film and send it on to recyclers. The plastic first has to be washed and dried, according to WRAP, and even then only some of it can be recycled. The program can recycle the clear wrap you might put around food at home, as well as bags that contain most produce, groceries, and bread, but not candy-bar wrappers, six-pack rings, and the plastic bags that contain chips or frozen food.

Wilmington In Transition

Wilmington In Transition To find the drop-off location closest to home, consumers can visit and click the “Find a Drop Off” tab to search by zip code and see a full list of plastic film items collected at store recycling programs.…/find-drop-off…/

Recycle Plastic Film Wraps and Bags

It’s sort of like going to Mars, Wagner wrote. “We’re not quite there yet. Not tomorrow, but someday. Hopefully soon.” Mendoza described pyrolysis, the method used by the Renewlogy plant to which Hefty EnergyBag waste has already been sent, as “a potential next step toward advanced recycling.”

After the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives called out an Omaha program for creating more pollution, the Dow and Hefty initiative also stopped sending the orange bags to the incinerator. Since then, the plastic waste has been put to several purposes, including being compressed into fence posts and railroad ties and going “to a Canadian firm that made some sort of decking,” according to Dale Gubbels, CEO of FirstStar Recycling, the Omaha company partnering with Dow and Hefty on the project.

“The industry has no idea what they’re putting in the plastic and who’s putting it in,” said Andrew Turner, a British chemist who recently found toxic chemicals in 40 percent of the black plastic toys, thermoses, cocktail stirrers, and utensils he tested. In some plastic, he found the chemicals present at 30 times safety standards set by governments.

Even chemicals that are regulated often have limits set for electronics but not for recycled products. “You’ve got something that wouldn’t be compliant with the regulations as an electric item because its levels are too high, but because it’s turned into a fork, there’s nothing to stop it from being used,” Turner said. Antimony, which Turner found in food containers, toys, and office supplies, “is restricted in drinking water, but not in electrical waste.”

Because no one has learned how to remove additives from plastic, products made from recycled waste, such as the railroad ties, fence posts, and decks made from Omaha’s plastic, can release toxic chemicals as they degrade. “Until we do a better job of eliminating the hazards in its first use, you’re going to have problems managing the toxicity in every subsequent use,” said Pete Myers, a biologist and the founder and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences. “Some of the types of plastics that they’re proposing to recycle contain chemicals connected to a 50-year decline in sperm count, to type 2 diabetes, and to breast and prostate cancer. These are serious problems and we don’t know enough about the exposures to make it safe for the child sitting on that deck.”

Pyrolysis of plastic can never be sustainable.

The modern notion is to pyrolyse plastic (and other municipal refuse) into a gas or oil which is then useable as a commodity, invariably a “fuel”, in its own right. This conveniently ignores the fact that pyrolysis is an energy consuming process: more energy has to be put in to treat the waste than can actually be recovered. It can never be sustainable.

It has been tacit knowledge for almost one hundred years that this type of waste is practically incompatible with these technologies (3). Also, heavy metals and dioxins become concentrated in the resulting products making then unsuitable as fuels, because when combusted they are released to the environment.

Results showed that the system operated with gross negative efficiencies, using between 5 and 87 times more energy than could be obtainable from the pyrolysis products.

Pyrolysis is unsustainable, recycling doesn’t happen because it also doesn’t work. The only answer is reduction of energy consumption. By 80%. Imagine that. Imagine the traumatic change humans, and the rest of life on earth we afflict, will go (and are even now going) through.

False Hopes for a Green New Deal

By Rufus Jordana, originally published by Open Democracy, September 3, 2019

The elephant in the room is capitalism (6) and the throwaway culture that the present version of this economic system has created – ever demanding new markets, more sales, more consumption, and more waste.

Why pyrolysis and ‘plastic to fuels’ is not a solution to the plastics problem

by Andrew Rollinson of Blushful Earth
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