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The standard plastics that we use don’t biodegrade quickly and because of this, plastics waste has become an increasingly significant ecological problem.
Plastic recycling efforts have been launched to address this ecological challenge, with two major types of recycling emerging: post-process and post-consumer. Made from waste plastic at a plastic moulding factory, post-process is the more prominent of the two kinds of recycled plastic.
Post-consumer is made from plastic that was used to manufacture an item, which was then discarded, gathered up, cleaned and reprocessed. Products produced from post-consumer plastic close the loop, directing used plastic away from landfills and toward recycling facilities.
While this may sound like a way to completely eliminate plastic waste, there are issues associated with recycling post-consumer plastic. In particular, there are economic roadblocks linked with the collecting, cleaning, organizing, re-processing and other operations, in addition to physical issues like irregular quality and contamination.
Even with the use of blending, which adds strength, post-consumer materials cannot achieve the durability of virgin materials. However, the appearance of 100-percent post-consumer plastics is comparable, as these plastics are capable of a high-quality aesthetic with vibrant colours and a transparency that allows for products to be clearly visible if use to make a container.
This is the reason why manufacturers made a great deal of progress using post-consumer materials for plastic bags and packaging but are still working out the most effective approach for use in large structural products.
Despite some usability concerns, post-consumer plastics do offer significant benefits for the environment.
Research has shown post-consumer plastics have a much smaller carbon footprint than virgin plastics. One study found the carbon footprint of manufacturing a 100-percent, postconsumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make a water bottle, is 60 percent lower than the production of virgin PET. This includes all the energy used to gather, recycle and produce new resin.
Furthermore, virgin plastic resins are produced from fossil fuels. When plastics are reused and made into new products, the production process does not require fossil fuels as raw materials, which has untold ecological benefits.
The use of post-consumer plastics can also help address one particularly significant problem: microplastics in the environment. Originating from plastic waste that has been dumped into the environment, microplastics are miniscule, manmade pieces of plastic that range from 5 millimetres to 100 nanometres across. These tiny bits are filling oceans, seas and waterways, working their way into the organisms that live there in the process. Microplastics have also been detected in the atmosphere, both in indoor and outdoor environments, as well as in our food chain.
Clearly, if we are recycling our plastic waste in large enough amounts, instead of dumping it, it can have a massive effect on reducing the amount of microplastics in the environment.
Previously, the fee for post-consumer resin has been a bit greater than virgin resins. This can be because of the considerable washing, sorting, and processing necessary for the recycled resins.
As the total cost of petroleum-based raw materials constantly rises - however - the cost of post-consumer resins is expected to remain the same. Furthermore, when more consumers recycle plastics, the law of supply and demand will make post-consumer resins very attractive when compared with virgin resins.
Furthermore, research has shown that consumers will actually pay more for products made with post-consumer plastics. According to an international study by Nielsen, 51 percent of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64, and 72 percent of respondents between 15 and 20 said they would pay more for products and services coming from businesses dedicated to making a positive ecological impact. In essence, a manufacturer investing in post-consumer plastic can realize a return, especially if this investment is properly publicized.