We have to be honest. We do what we do here at Seraphim Plastics because it is our business. We make money on industrial plastic recycling. But still, what if there were other organizations willing to do the same thing at break-even levels. Would doing so be worth it?
You can make the case that any form of recycling isn’t worth it if it becomes a money-losing proposition. That’s why so many municipal recycling programs fail. Municipalities spend more on recycling then they save via waste elimination and material procurement. So they stop doing it.
For the sake of discussion, let us assume a municipality could break even on industrial plastic recycling. They don’t make any profit, but they do make enough to cover all of their expenses. In our opinion, doing so would be worth it – just from the standpoint of eliminating waste.
We Have a Waste Problem
Waste is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “unwanted matter or material of any type, especially what is left after useful substances or parts have been removed.” The industrial plastic products we recycle consist of unwanted materials. Some of the materials are perfectly usable – like unused totes and plastic pallets. Other materials, like trim from injection molding machines, is unusable in its current form.
Regardless, waste is unwanted material. Humanity produces a lot of it. So much so that most of us would agree we have a huge waste problem worldwide. But there is another aspect to this. The word ‘waste’ has multiple meanings. It is also defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a bad use of something valuable.”
Throwing unwanted industrial plastics into landfills represents a waste of valuable material. It might be unwanted in its current form, but it could be transformed into something that someone does want. That is the whole point of industrial plastic recycling.
Breaking Even Has It Benefits
Getting back to the main question, breaking even on plastic recycling does have its benefits. Again, this pertains to municipalities that do not necessarily have to make a profit in order to effectively recycle. The absence of a profit doesn’t mean there are no benefits to municipalities. There are.
A big one is a reduction in the volume of waste sent to landfills. Every ton of garbage thrown into the ground represents consumed space. Every time a landfill reaches capacity, a new landfill has to be established to take its place. Thus, we are consuming land by throwing our garbage away. Reducing the amount that we throw away simultaneously reduces the amount of land we consume.
Municipalities can actually save money by reducing landfill utilization. Less waste requires less labor to process. It also prolongs the life of a landfill, meaning less money is spent on procuring more landfill space.
Fewer Environmental Concerns
Another big benefit of plastic recycling is reducing environmental concerns. We have already discussed taking up valuable landfill space, but there are other things to consider. Among them is the cost of landfilling plastics in terms of pollution. Do we really need to be throwing so much plastic into the ground? That says nothing of all the plastic materials that end up in waterways and sewer systems.
Recycling industrial plastics requires less energy than making new plastics from scratch. If we are serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, this seems like a big win.
We buy scrap plastic and recycle it because doing so makes us a profit. But it is possible for municipalities and nonprofits to do the same thing at break-even levels. Is it worth it? That’s up to them to decide.