Lately there have been mutliple noticeable reports about people in the USA stealing reclaimable plastics (and other materials) to sell illegally for their scrap value, in, for instance, Los Angeles and in the state in which I grew up, Michigan.
The raw scrap value of chunky products like plastic pallets is enough for these thieves to risk prison time for. Waste plastics’ value is also high enough for legal collection by (often-underappreciated) scavengers around the world, a topic I covered a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, children in Texas are being incentivized to treat their humble and hated plastics bags as valuable materials for recycling, as described in last week’s Plastics News cover story.
So what about everyone else? There’s still some disconnection between beliefs and behavior out there, in terms of recycling. Recyclables continue to go unrecycled, amounting to billions of dollars of value being buried in landfills. And meanwhile, the trash is stacking up, with the amount created each year expected roughly to double within the next dozen years or so. Along with paper, glass, and so forth, packaging made from plastic plays a role in this drama – and a sobering realistic role at that.
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 22 years. You can follow Mike and be alerted on blog updates via Twitter.