One dominant theme from the Plastics Recycling Conference last week was that the public perception of plastic, and plastic packaging in particular, needs to change. Currently it is viewed as (wasteful) trash of no value. And any disposable plastic item only adds to that perception. That attitude needs to change so that people recognize that used plastic is valuable and that companies want it back for reprocessing, conversion to oil or other uses that do not include landfilling it. The real challenge is engaging the consumers and end users.
The problem is all the more significant because demand for recycled plastics is again exceeding the supply now that the economy is out of the worst of the economic funk from the past few years. While more and more recycling systems are being set up and are taking ever more diverse plastic streams, the shortfall will still exist for some time. Just as the efficient aluminum and glass recycling systems that we have weren't established overnight, plastic recycling systems will get there in the future.
And if all this doesn't convince you that plastic waste is valuable, consider this: LA police recently arrested the operators of a recycling company for recycling stolen plastic. I guess you cold say they were running the ultimate "chop shop", since the incoming plastic parts were chopped up into pellets. While I am not condoning the practice, chopping up the plastic to small pellets is certainly going to destroy all or nearly all of the evidence of what the pellets came from, making them very easy to sell.
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