Friday, June 14, 2013

Banning plastics, but only in landfills - Recycling wins!

Some places are banning plastic as a way to stop pollution. Going completely in the opposite direction, Tennessee, is banning plastic bottle from landfills (aluminum cans too). Beautiful proof that
  • plastics can be recycled
  • plastics should be recycled
  • plastics are being recycled
Plastic waste? It's valuable and we want it. Which state is going to be next with this forward thinking?

What a great bit of news to end the week with.


Bend said...

Waste is valuable, but is the quantity directed toward recycling outpacing the capacity to process it? I don't think that government edicts are a reliable metric of supply and demand. Cato institute is having an interesting debate regarding the economics of recycling and landfills and the proper role of government in their encouragement. A preview is given by Steven Landsburg at his blog. I'd be interested to hear your perspective.

John said...

Thanks for the comments Bend. I'll be sure to look at that Cato paper.

As for the supply/demand question. if you look at the price difference between virgin and recycled resin over the years, you see the margin decreasing. Demand is definitely there, but as with any other resin supply, a processor isn't going to make a change unless they know they have a reliable supply to meet their needs.

It's the same chicken-and-egg game for developing a new polymer - people will use it if you can make it in the volumes they want, but you're not going to invest in the plant to make such large volumes until you know people will buy it.

I think that is why some people think there is a role for government intervention - as a source of energy to get the industry over the transition state and into a new, more stable configuration - to use a chemical analogy. That role is and certainly will be open to debate. Sadly, I know the debate would be mostly knee-jerk responses instead of innovative thinking.