Recycling Plastic, It’s More Than A Challenge. It Is A Must!

Recycling Plastic, It’s More Than A Challenge. It Is A Must!

Robert Austin discusses the challenges of recycling plastics as well as recent advances in plastic recycling. He also emphasizes how improving plastic recycling aligns with the "doing more with less" mindset on Buckminster Fuller's Spaceship Earth.

Robert Austin
Robert Austin

When you say recycling to most people, they think of putting their used soft drink bottles, ketchup bottles, and salad dressing bottles into that blue can with the three arrows arranged in a triangle.  If they do that, they feel they have met their responsibility.  Well, honestly, it is a good start, but a lot more needs to be done. And I believe most people would step up to the task if they understood just how much of a difference it could make in reducing the CO2 in our atmosphere and improving the appearance and livability of our planet.

Recycling home refuse is an idea that has been around for half a century or more. For most people, it consists of separating the plastics, glass, and metal containers…. which can be recycled, from the food waste and contaminated cleaning products, and spoiled foods, which must go to landfills.  The nasty material that we do call garbage can be a source of energy as well, as it puts out methane and other gasses as it decomposes. They can be harvested and burned to generate electricity if we wish.  We used to incinerate the garbage rather than put it in landfills. It was more compact and easier to haul when it was just ashes.  But when I was growing up in the Bronx, I can attest that it made for some filthy and foul-smelling air.

Recycling Metals

Recycling on an industrial basis has been around for over a hundred years!  It began not for environmental reasons but rather for economic ones.  Metals like Iron, Steel, Aluminum are relatively easy to recycle. They can be recycled just about indefinitely, and to recycle them is much more energy-efficient, less expensive, and does less damage to the planet than starting all over again digging for the ore that they originally came in.  Since the 1900s, the number one strategic material necessary for manufacturing new Steel products is Steel scrap.  Iron and Steel are also heavy and dense, so you can handle them very efficiently, as they do not blow away, and you can transport a great deal of it in a truck or railroad car.

Believe it or not, Aluminum is even more efficient to make from Aluminum scrap than Steel is!  The energy saved in making Steel from Steel scrap is about 70% compared to making it starting from Iron ore.  Aluminum, which starts as an ore named Bauxite, which then has to be electrically separated to produce Aluminum, saves 92% of the energy when you begin with scrap Aluminum instead of Bauxite.

Recycling Plastics

Consider this, according to the World Economic Forum:  

  • 8% of the world's oil production is used to make plastics and to power its manufacture. By 2050, this figure is expected to rise to 20%.
  • Plastics are not going away, and un-recycled plastics are genuinely one of the biggest threats to our environment!

Probably the most significant single challenge in recycling is how do you efficiently and effectively recycle plastics?  We produce a higher volume of plastic waste than almost anything else.  I should point out that this is by volume, not weight, because the metals are heavier. But the sheer volume of plastic we use, especially single-use plastic, is horrifying.  Let me give you some examples.  The figures below have been agreed upon by numerous trusted sources, including Earthday.org and National Geographic.

  • Only 9% of plastic trash is recycled in the US
  • Plastic accounts for about 3% of landfill composition
  • Because plastic is light when discarded, it often blows across the land and into our waterways and oceans, causing injuries and deaths to wildlife
  • When plastic is left in the sun and heat, it starts to degrade and release methane and ethylene. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than CO2 in terms of its contribution to climate change
  • 40% of plastic produced is packaging and is discarded after a single-use
  • Approximately 2 million single-use plastic bags are distributed around the world, every minute!
    -shopper in the US use one plastic bag per household member per day
    -Shoppers in Denmark each carry a collapsible cotton net bag at all times

Sure, we have to start kicking the single-use habit!  But even more importantly, we have to find an efficient and cost-effective way of dealing with plastic waste.

You may be asking yourself what is holding us back. The answer is that, unlike metals, plastics are not all that easy to collect as they take up a lot of room but have very low density, they are very tough to sort out, and up to this point, they were costly to separate. You could not make a product out of recycled plastic that would justify the cost of recycling.  Well, that is changing.  And a solid infrastructure for handling recycled plastic is being developed.

Innovations In Plastic Recycling

A company located in Willoughby, Ohio named Shini USA manufactures machinery that produces plastic products, and now a line of machines helps to recycle plastics!  They have a website that contains a wealth of consumer information about how plastic recycling works and which products should be recycled rather than thrown away! Even a brief visit to their website will provide you with a lot of information you can start using today.  Visit them here

Another company, Mura Technology, is a pioneer in Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution.  Their mission is to turn plastic waste from harmful waste into a valuable resource.  They believe they can approach almost 100% recycling of plastic materials into various reusable chemical products.  Mura technology is beginning the construction of the first of these new plants in the UK. A visit to their website will also provide you with insight into how plastic recycling may make major steps forward in the next few years.  And equally important how avoiding the burning of waste plastic and recycling the petrochemicals from existing products will reduce the need for petroleum and reduce the CO2 entering our atmosphere.  These are critical steps forward if we are to become carbon neutral. Visit them here

In the meantime, please visit these and other websites that discuss what plastic waste you should be recycling. Statistically, there should be a lot more going into that blue bin!

And if you want to see what your plastic waste can become, visit here.

On Buckminster Fuller's Spaceship Earth, increasing plastic recycling throughput corresponds to the "do more with less" mindset.


TIPP Takes

How China's Mines Rule The Market Of Critical Raw Materials

  • The European Union has identified 30 such resources — which cannot currently be substituted — as crucial for the defense and renewables sectors and the manufacture of robotics, drones, and batteries.
  • Unlike steel, cement, and oil, the global production of many critical raw materials amounts to just a few thousand tons per year. And it is controlled by only a handful of countries.
  • There are many critical resource hotspots. The north of South Africa has platinum and vanadium reserves, while the Congo has cobalt deposits, and the United States extracts beryllium.
  • China, meanwhile, has mining access to two-thirds of the different 30 critical raw materials, including antimony, baryte, and rare earth elements.
  • China is one of the top three suppliers of many of the elements, way ahead of the United States and Russia.
  • This dominance is partly attributable to deposits across China itself, but it is also due to deliberate planning.
  • These days it's the Shanghai Metal Exchange that's important, not the London Metal Exchange," said Hanns Günther Hilpert, head of the Asia Research Division of the German think tank SWP.
  • "Even when alternative deposits are mined, most of the processing takes place in China — before being exported abroad again."
  • That makes China both the biggest producer of critical raw materials and the leading importer of those mined elsewhere.
  • In 2012, Europe, the U.S., and Japan won a case brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that forced China to drop export restrictions on critical raw materials.

Chinese Investment Spurs Africa's Transformation Agenda: Expert

  • More than 200 participants, including policymakers, scholars, and development experts, attended the virtual forum titled "Examining China's Investments in African Nations: Promises and Influence."
  • The massive infusion of Chinese capital into African economies has accelerated the continent's transformation agenda and pandemic recovery.
  • Marco Tavanti, an international development scholar, said: "China represents a crucial source of foreign direct investments (FDI) in Africa, and it also pushes forward the idea of neutrality and non-interference with decision-making processes of partner nations."
  • All 200 experts agreed that China-Africa cooperation in diverse spheres like trade, culture, health, education, and technology had reshaped the global balance of power.
  • Beatrice Matiri-Maisori, a Kenyan business development expert, said: "We are looking at a post-pandemic recovery, and there is strength in partnership with China."

Putin Critic Navalny Could 'Die Within Days,' According To Doctors

  • Doctors say recent blood test results indicate he could suffer cardiac arrest or kidney failure at any moment.
  • Navalny has been on a hunger strike for 18 days to demand proper treatment for acute back pain and leg numbness.
  • A prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny, was jailed in February for old embezzlement charges.
  • Four doctors, including his physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, have written to prison officials to ask for permission to see him urgently.
  • Also joining the call for action are more than 70 well-known writers, artists, and academics, who have signed a letter calling on President Putin to ensure Navalny receives adequate medical care.
  • The Economist and France's Le Monde both published the letter.
  • Human rights campaigners say the prison is known for its especially harsh conditions.

Myanmar Military Ruler To Attend ASEAN Summit In 1st Foreign Trip

  • Min Aung Hlaing to take part in a summit attended by leaders of Southeast Asian nations in Indonesia next week.
  • In the latest violence, security forces shot and killed two protesters in the ruby-mining town of Mogok. Several small bombs went off in the largest city of Yangon, wounding several people, media outlets reported.
  • A spokesman for Thailand's foreign ministry said that several ASEAN leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, had confirmed their attendance at the April 24 meeting in Jakarta.
  • Meanwhile, the military government released 23,184 prisoners from jails across the country on Saturday under a New Year amnesty.

Tens Of Thousands Flee Attacks On Northeast Nigerian Town: UN

  • As many as 65,000 people have fled the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak following a series of attacks by an armed group, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
  • According to the UNHCR, fighters from the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed the town in Borno state three times in a week, attacking a military garrison, burning homes and a UN office, and killing at least 12 people.
  • The incidents mark the latest violence in the Lake Chad basin area, which has uprooted some 3.3 million people in recent years, the refugee agency said.
  • ISWAP, which split from the armed group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria.
  • Due to worsening security in the region, humanitarian workers struggle to provide aid, with the number of people requiring urgent assistance expected to rise to 8.7 million this year.

Crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray Worsens, No Eritrean Withdrawal Yet

  • The humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's northernmost region Tigray, bordering Eritrea, is deteriorating with no sign of a promised pullback of Eritrean soldiers from the area, said the United Nations aid chief on Thursday.
  • The fighting between central government soldiers and Tigray's former ruling party has claimed thousands of lives since November.
  • The UN and the United States have been demanding a withdrawal of Eritrean troops.
  • 4.5 million of Tigray's 6 million people needed humanitarian aid, while 91% of the population needed emergency food, as per government estimates.

Tippinsights draws on various sources, but our public opinion research generates the majority of our content.  Please contact us if you like the content on tippinsights.com and have a research idea or want to collaborate! The TIPP Poll holds the coveted distinction of being the most accurate poll of the twenty-first century, correctly predicting the winner of the last five U.S. presidential elections.

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