Greenpeace USA published a buzz-generating report in late October 2022 declaring, in no uncertain terms, that plastic recycling doesn’t work. It cannot work. At least that is the main thrust of the report. However, we feel a bit of perspective is required. The conclusions reached in the report do not apply to what we do here at Seraphim Plastics.
The report, Circular Claims Fall Flat Again, is actually a follow-up to a similar report published the year before. It presents a ton of data proving that global efforts to recycle certain kinds of plastics continue to fail year in and year out. Overall, the amount of plastic the world recycle continues to decline.
Now for the perspective: Greenpeace USA focuses almost exclusively on consumer plastics in its report. It talks about things like PET bottles and plastic food packaging. It discusses, at great length, why municipal recycling programs don’t work. None of the information is new – except for the actual numbers, of course.
Why Our Business Model Works
Industrial plastic recycling works very well. It works well enough that we have built a solid business around doing it. And we aren’t the only ones. While we operate in seven states, including Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio, there are other industrial plastic recycling companies doing the same thing across the country.
Our business model works because it eliminates all the problems that plague consumer plastic recycling. As Greenpeace USA explained in its report, one of the biggest problems with the consumer recycling model is sorting. To date, no one has figured out how to do it effectively and cheaply at the same time.
Sorting is not an issue for us. When we pick up a load of scrap plastic from a customer, it is already sorted. A load of plastic purge from an injection mold manufacturer contains only plastic purge. The same goes for everything else we buy. A load of pallets is just pallets. A load of dunnage trays is just dunnage trays.
Easy, Efficient, and Cost-Effective
Greenpeace USA has come to the conclusion that recycling consumer plastics is a fool’s errand because it cannot be done efficiently or cost-effectively. They have finally come to realize that municipalities are giving up on recycling because it’s costing them too much money. Sorting costs are too high, and no one wants to buy their recycled plastic.
On the other hand, our recycling process is easy and efficient. We buy a load of plastic scrap from an industrial customer and haul it back to one of our recycling facilities. The load goes from truck to grinder without any intermediate steps. Grinders turn it into a material we can sell to manufacturers.
Because our process is so simple and efficient, we can keep the price we charge for plastic regrind pretty low. It is low enough to attract plenty of customers who buy from us on a regular basis.
The Circular Economy Dream
Unfortunately, coming to terms with the abject failure that has long been consumer plastic recycling casts doubt on whether the circular economy concept is just a dream. We don’t believe it is.
As we have said time and again, our business model proves that recycling can work. The fact that the world has mastered recycling wood, paper, and glass proves the same thing. We could successfully recycle consumer plastics if we just changed the way we produce, use, and dispose of them.
Consumer plastics are not going away. So we either figure out how to recycle them or we content ourselves with sending them to the landfill. There isn’t anything viable in between.