The Dirty Little Secret to Making Recycling Work

We talk a lot about failed residential recycling programs. It is not because we have anything against such programs, it’s just that they offer the opportunity to thoroughly explain why industrial plastic recycling works in the real world. In this post, we want to discuss the topic from a slightly different angle by addressing the ‘dirty little secret’ to making recycling actually work.

Revealing that secret starts with discussion of a brand-new recycling center to be built in South Korea. Novelis Inc. plans to invest $50 million in a new center that will handle some 100 kilotons of low-carbon aluminum each year. They estimate being able to reduce their mission output by some 420,000 tons annually.

A Lot of Money for Recycling

By any measure, $50 million is a lot of money. A company willing to invest that much in building a recycling plant must believe in the concept of recycling wholeheartedly. Much like we can see the value in commercial plastic recycling, Novelis sees the value in recycling aluminum. They see so much value that they are willing to invest tens of millions of dollars.

The question is, why? What do they get out of such a significant financial investment? Here in lies the dirty little secret we referenced at the start of this post. Novelis is willing to put tens of millions of dollars into a new recycling center for the exact same reason that we operate in seven different states: profit.

That’s Why Business Exists

As a company owner or manager yourself, you know that the profit motive is why businesses exist. Your business does what it does to make money. If there is no money to be made in a given venture, your company is not going to pursue that venture.

The other thing to bear in mind is the principal of margin. Your company not only has to make money, but it also has to make a certain amount in relation to what it spends. We don’t know what your company’s margin is, but let’s say it’s 25%. Finishing a year at 12% is not good. Your company needs that 25% to make continuing financially worthwhile.

Public vs. Private Sector Recycling

Novelis obviously does business in the private sector. So do we here at Seraphim Plastics. As such, we are free to pursue those financial interests that benefit our company. Your company has the same freedom. It makes sense for you to sell us your scrap plastic waste because doing so allows you to turn something that would otherwise end up in a landfill into a revenue stream.

By the same token, we can turn around and process the plastic we buy from you, turn it into a new product, and sell it to our customers. We all work together to make recycling work because it benefits us financially. You benefit with a little extra cash, we benefit by having a product to sell, and our customers benefit by having access to cheaper plastic regrind.

In the public sector, profit is very difficult to come by. Public sector agencies and projects tend to be inefficient and wasteful. And when it comes to recycling, they spend far too much money to get very little in return. That’s why so many municipal recycling programs fail.

The secret to successful recycling is profit. That doesn’t sound as altruistic as saving the planet – which we believe in, by the way – but it is the practical reality of doing business. Find a way to make money by recycling and companies will jump at the opportunity to do it.