Plastic recycling is getting an update in the shape of a new method, and those who work in the field are hopeful that it will signal a watershed moment for an industry that has been heavily criticised for its inefficiency for a very long time. The process, which has been given the name “Advanced Recycling,” is one that can take plastics that were previously unable to be recycled and melt them down into their fundamental forms. This adds an additional step to the standard method of recycling plastics. The plastics industry has high hopes that this method would result in the creation of a “circular economy” for plastic, which will enable businesses to reduce their consumption of newly produced plastics and increase their utilisation of recycled plastics.
The discarded plastics from recycling centres as well as from individual consumers are collected by garbage trucks and gathered for the advanced recycling process, which then employs a combination of chemical solutions and heat in order to transform the moulded plastic back into its original organic constituent. This results in recycled polymers that are practically indistinguishable from their new counterparts, which is something that the traditional mechanical recycling process was never capable of accomplishing.
There are already several facilities that are able to carry out these chemical processes; however, the scale at which they are able to recycle is severely restricted. Although the largest facility in the United States is able to handle up to 60 tonnes of plastic garbage per day, their effect is negligible because there are approximately 100,000 different types of plastic created each day. And despite the fact that these facilities do expand the range of materials that can be recycled, an extremely huge quantity of non-recyclable plastics are still not taken into account, which means that they are dumped in landfills.
The separation procedure is one of the most important variables that determines how well these facilities perform their functions. The majority of the time, recyclable material is mixed in with various types of non-recyclable material, such as electronics, batteries, styrofoam, and polymers that cannot be recycled. In order to recycle effectively, all of material needs to be removed by hand, which is a procedure that is both time-consuming and expensive. Because fresh plastic is less expensive than recycled plastic, many businesses choose to use it rather than the latter.
Those who are opposed to the practise of advanced recycling argue that the technology is only another marketing ploy designed to keep the plastics sector in business. The economics are one of the most compelling aspects of their case; since recycled plastic is essentially just a cheap byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, new plastic will always be more expensive than recycled plastic. With the help of promotions such as these, businesses are able to continue to raise the amount of plastic they produce and the amount of fresh plastic they use, all while devoting very little effort to the management of the waste that they generate.
Many people are also continuing to call attention to the commercial techniques that the fossil fuel industry is employing in order to market and construct these projects. Some people have started to lobby against regulation in the business, advocating for laws that would make it simpler for facilities that do advanced recycling to be categorised as manufacturing operations rather than sites that do waste management. Because of this categorization, businesses would be exempt from the requirements of the Clean Air Act, which would make it much simpler to get rid of potentially dangerous materials. Some people are concerned that the next stage in exploiting low-income and minority neighbourhoods would be advanced recycling, which is a sector that has been dogged by controversy for a long time due to disproportionate health repercussions on low-income and minority neighbourhoods.
There hasn’t been much research done on the environmental impact of these plants because advanced recycling is such a recent innovation. However, experts are confident that they will be less harmful to the environment because the process that is used is anaerobic and does not involve burning the plastics.
In spite of the fact that there are many staunch arguments on both sides of the issue, there are many who believe that a compromise reached somewhere in the centre will be able to produce a solution that is environmentally friendly. Advanced recycling might be a method for the plastics sector to extend its lifespan and increase its profitability, but the technology might also be the answer to the problem of how to make plastic use more environmentally friendly. A genuine circular economy based on recycled plastics could greatly cut down on the amount of waste that is ultimately disposed of in the natural environment provided, at the same time, it severely restricted the manufacturing of new plastic. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the question of whether or not this objective is even achievable, yet practically everyone can agree that action needs to be taken to address the expanding problem of waste plastics.