For increasing the stream of recyclable plastics from the public, more creative ideas will be needed – below are just a few recent trends and examples:
Landfill-blocking: Especially where landfill space is running low, governments are forbidding the landfilling of recyclable waste. Such measures are being debated and evaluated in the U.S. states of Vermont and North Carolina, where a difficult-to-enforce law has already reportedly increased the amount of plastic containers collected for recycling.
More “tit for tat”: Increasing the compensation for collected material is being used to spur recycling. For example, this month California increased the rates payable for loads of collected plastic containers, aiding the economics of redemption centers. Such a change also supports operators of reverse vending machines, which are being used in more places worldwide, including Thailand, for making direct payments to people who collect and insert recyclables (also in the U.S., where PepsiCo Inc.’s “Dream Machines” offer “points” for local store discounts). And money isn’t the only motivator: in the Philippines, separated recyclables can also be redeemed for rice.
And of course, more educated consumers are more likely to recycle. Targeting this goal, public-education program partnerships like the one between the American Chemistry Council and Earth911, Inc., are needed to explain the what’s, how’s, where’s, and so forth about plastics recycling options in local communities.
Mike Tolinski is the author of Plastics and Sustainability, published in Oct. 2011 by Wiley-Scrivener, and he is Contributing Editor for Plastics Engineering magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers in the USA. His views have been shaped by his engineering, university, and journalism experience in the plastics and manufacturing industries over the past 21 years. You can follow Mike and be alerted on blog updates via Twitter.