Plastic Waste is a Global Concern
The world now produces over 380 million tonnes of plastic every year. This is likely one of many large numbers thrown at you on any given day. “Christiano Ronaldo has 244 million followers”, “Elon Musk is worth 188 billion USD”, “There are 7.5 quintillion grains of sand in the world”. To most, these numbers blend together as simply a ‘big number’; there is no visual benefit in describing anything, including plastic waste, with such enormous quantities.
An easier metric to comprehend is simply analyzing the growth trend of global plastic waste produced, apparent in the following graph. Since 1950, the world has routinely been creating more plastic waste each year without hesitation. While lacking the necessary recycling manufacturing facilities, it is inevitable that this waste will find itself in oceans, landfills, or incinerators.
China Has Closed Its Doors to North American Plastic Waste
Towards the end of 2017, China banned the majority of its plastic waste imports. Prior to this policy change, the North American recycling industry exported approximately 70% of its waste — primarily shipping plastics to China. Without this recycling sink, over 90 countries are left without a major plastic waste disposal outlet.
The Canadian recycling industry is not immune to this policy change. With the elimination of its primary recycling manufacturing source, Canada recycles only 9% of its plastic waste. It is clear that additional plastics recycling facilities will be required to take China’s place.
The Shipping Cost of Plastic Waste
A recycling bin, to the garbage truck, to your municipal recycling facility, transported to the coast, shipped across the Pacific Ocean, dumped in a developing country’s sorting center, transferred to a material production facility, to a recycled plastics manufacturer, shipped back across the Pacific Ocean to North America as an “eco-friendly” product.
This is the path that Canadian plastic waste travels to simply be recycled.
This enduring process is the primary contributor to the relatively high prices of recycled plastic products and high carbon emissions associated with recycling them. Without a low processing and manufacturing cost, it is difficult for recycled plastics to remain competitive with virgin plastics. As a result, there is a smaller market for eco-friendly products and less than expected environmental impact in actually recycling them.
The solution to this issue is DOMESTIC RECYCLING, as practiced by Level 7.
Plastic is Everywhere
It is not uncommon to hear that plastic is a super material. It is light, chemically resistant, cost-effective, and has countless other benefits foreign to other materials.
For pipe systems in the ground, aerospace components in the sky, and nearly everything in between, plastic is a fundamental material required for each of these engineering structures to operate. Without it, these engineering solutions would perform to a worse degree, cost significantly more to manufacture, or simply not exist.
It is clear that plastic is heavily relied on in varying industries, yet it is known to cause a significant amount of damage to the environment. While some plastic-utilizing industries can migrate towards a zero-plastic waste solution, it is not realistic to believe that this can be done for every industry. For this reason, the recycling component of the plastic cycle is absolutely critical.