Recycling does not equal recyclability
Almost all plastic products are imprinted with a resin code – a small number enclosed by the “chasing arrows” symbol. This symbol says nothing about its recyclability. The majority of recycling facilities across North America only process resin codes or Resin Identification Code (RIC) #1 and #2 and, in Canada, less than 40% of those are recycled. These are the commodities, which can be transforming into lower grade plastic products.
What happens to the rest of plastic wastes with resin code #3 to #7?
Most of these are low-value or no-value stuff ended in landfills and incinerators around the globe! When our plastics are shipped overseas to China, India, and other countries (and much of it is), they are processed under work standards and environmental standards that are much lower than in North America. We must be responsible for the human impact of our recycling overseas and we also cannot escape the toxins that are released when recycling takes place somewhere else since toxins do not stay local.
Is existing Recycling program work?
Existing recycling program provides a degree of relief in our efforts to relieve these problems but there are barriers that reduce the effectiveness of this solution. In addition to the complex and arduous process of separating and preparing different plastics for recycling, many plastics never reach recycling facilities. Most of the plastic ended in landfills or incinerators.
According to the USEPA (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) 2010 Facts and Figures report, over 92% of waste plastic is not recycled and, with a growth rate of approximately 8% per year.
The plastic resin from the plastic that is collected for recycling has a limited ability to be recycled since its quality degrades every time it is reheated. Very few of the plastic containers collected for recycling are being made into similar or recyclable products again. Rather they are made into secondary products which are not recyclable and their final destination is an incinerator or landfill. We are often only delaying its disposal. Meanwhile, more virgin petroleum is needed to recreate new products, instead of the plastics which are put out for collection.
There exists a critical need for a viable and environmentally sound general purpose hydrocarbon-based recycling process.
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