Mail-back schemes to reduce plastic packaging waste face one significant hurdle—human nature: Page 2 of 2

One major problem, noted in a Nov. 16, 2018, news report from Thomasnet, is that sourcing activity for plastic recyclers rose 49% over a three-month period. There appears to be a “glut of plastic recyclable materials” in the U.S., which are “piling up,” noted Thomasnet’s Shawn Fitzgerald. “We expect to see the demand for plastics recycling services to continue to increase.”

Yet, the discouraging side to this, according to Fitzgerald, is the possible correlation between an increase in the amount of recyclable plastic waste available and increases in sourcing activity on Thomasnet for waste disposal services because of “plummeting demand” for post-industrial plastic waste. That could be an indicator that more recyclable plastics are heading to landfills because plastics recycling services are unable to handle all the plastic waste that is being generated.

When asked about an increase in demand for recycling services among ISRI’s membership, Mark Carpenter, Assistant VP of Communications for ISRI, told PlasticsToday, “We don’t have enough data to comment—most of it is anecdotal. We have information that shows that in 2018, the U.S. became a net importer of PET where in the past it was an exporter. That would be an indicator but, again, no hard evidence.”

Wiener stated, “ISRI’s advocacy achievements in 2018 are helping to reduce tax, compliance and other regulatory burdens on recyclers while increasing potential profits. ISRI will continue to be active in 2019 delivering even more gains for the industry.”

While traditional recycling along with innovations in the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—continue apace, real challenges remain. Getting consumers involved even in such seemingly simple actions as putting plastic recyclables in appropriate bins so that they stay out of waterways, and ultimately the oceans, is the first hurdle to overcome.

The non-traditional recycling/reuse schemes that require greater consumer participation may work in some smaller, niche initiatives, but I’m not holding my breath.

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