There is a certain segment of the plastics industry continually looking for new ways to recycle mixed plastic. That is not a bad idea, and we will explain why in this post. Just note that while other companies are working on innovative solutions to the mixed plastics problem, we continue to collect and recycle industrial scrap plastic.
Also bear in mind that the idea of recycling mixed plastics focuses primarily on consumer plastics. You are talking about things like plastic food packaging, beverage bottles, and the like. While finding a way to utilize mixed commercial plastics would be welcome, companies like ours already successfully recycle everything from PVC to PET.
Sorting Is the Main Problem
Regular readers of our blog posts note the big problem with mixed plastics is sorting. That’s why we only pick up single loads of already sorted industrial plastics. A load of pallets is all pallets. A load of totes is all totes. Not having to sort what we pick up is the key to our business model.
In the consumer plastics world, sorting needs to take place before different items can be sent to recyclers. This is time-consuming and costly. Not only that, but it is too easy to contaminate the entire load with just one or two pieces.
None of this may be a problem in the future, according to a recent Forbes article outlining new process whereby mixed consumer plastics can be turned into an aggregate that replaces sand in a typical concrete mixture. If the company behind this process can scale up and make it viable, it could turn into quite a commercial success.
How the Process Works
The Forbes piece says that the process of turning mixed plastic waste into an aggregate starts with reducing the waste to small flakes. It’s done in a way similar to how we reduce industrial scrap plastic to create regrind. The flakes are combined with a number of minerals.
Next, the entire mixture is melted and extruded. After the finished product cures, it is sent through a series of grinders to reduce it to particles about the same size as sand. It can then be added to cement to create concrete. The material can also be added to asphalt to give it more strength.
The Potential Is There
All this as well and good, but it doesn’t answer the fundamental question of why companies continue looking for ways to recycle mixed plastic waste. It all boils down to a single word: potential. The fact is that the potential for mixed plastics is there. It is just a matter of finding the best way to utilize them.
On a similar note, we buy and sell recycled plastics because the potential to make a good profit exists. There is a strong market for recycled plastic regrind. We want to take advantage of that market. So we buy things like plastic purge and cut-offs, then haul the material to one of our plans for processing.
Tons of Plastic Waste
Tons of plastic waste are tossed into landfills every year. The vast majority of that waste consists of mixed consumer plastics. Imagine the resource all that plastic would represent if we could somehow fix the sorting problem. That problem doesn’t exist in industrial plastic recycling because our customers handle the sorting for us. But expecting consumers to do the same thing at home is probably asking too much.
Finding a way to utilize mixed plastic waste while bypassing the sorting process is the holy grail of consumer plastic recycling. The first company to nail it is going to score big.