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Life After the Bottle

ban single use plastic

I want to be a bench in my next life

Have you ever wondered what the future of the reused plastic industry holds?

“Consuming less means throwing away less, while reusing things helps save the planet and the pennies.”

-Sheherazade Goldsmith-

As we continue to progress as a society and advance towards new horizons of innovation and technology, we need to stay mindful that the resources we have at our disposal are limited. While the resources we currently have may be enough to help us flourish for the next several years, they will eventually come to a standstill, leading to significant repercussions for the future.

The responsible way to prosper as a community is to focus on our growth and remember the directives we take now will have consequences for years into the future. It is why we have had to come up with innovative methods to preserve our resources. One of these methods is recycling.

Recycling has been an ongoing attempt at waste management across the world. As more people learn about the benefits of recycling their waste rather than throwing it into the garbage, the amount of recycled waste has significantly increased. We feel more connected with our community and feel good about our contribution towards a more sustainable future.

One of the enormous benefits of recycling is that it brings more value, overall, than landfilling waste. Numerous products made with recycled materials, put less pressure on the environment, and eliminate wasting a second chance at life rather than leaving it to decay underground over hundreds of years. One plastic bottle takes 500 years to decompose, which means every piece of plastic we’ve ever used in our lifetime is still around.

The one problem that businesses have always faced when producing recycled products is the supply market. While consumers benefit from the lower prices, the environment benefits from less waste production, and there is a considerable advantage. In the long run, recycled materials have to put up with the competition of virgin materials.

Recycled materials are repurposed much cheaper for manufacturers than virgin material; there isn’t enough funding for those that work in the recycling business to continue collecting recyclable materials, separating, shredding and melting them, and paying the workers who are a part of the recycling industry. Furthermore, 50% of what consumers recycle doesn’t end up getting reused, which adds pressure to businesses aiming to create products from used plastics.

It can change when we look at the business that focuses not only on collecting recyclables but also on creating valuable, sustainable products. These businesses become innovative leaders working towards a healthier tomorrow. They’re also laying the steppingstones for an entirely new industry that has job prospects for artists, creators, engineers, and environmentalists from all walks of life.

I want to be a bench in my next life

Did you know that in India produces around 24,940 tons of plastic waste per day? That’s only the average calculated by studying 60 cities in a highly populated country. What’s worse is that reports show that chemical processing will increase by approximately 10.4% by 2022. Almost 50% of all this plastic produced goes to single-use plastics, such as mineral water bottles, plastic spoons, and straws.

Bisleri, a mineral water company established since 1969, started an initiative called “Bottles for Change” in 2017. They encourage citizens to recycle their plastic bottles and use the recycled plastic to manufacture products, such as clothes, bags, blinds, and other sustainable items, that they fund internally through the revenue generated by their company.

Another company, one of the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, Plaswood, made a bench out of the plastic waste found in riverbeds. Not only was the plastic polluting the river, but it was bound to end up in a landfill to decay had Plaswood not stepped in.

The plastic removed from the river is also used to create plastic lumber that the company uses to manufacture its products. It doesn’t wear out the way its counterpart, hardwood, does and is much more sustainable. The furniture produced from plastic lumber stays in perfect condition for years — and when it reaches its end — it can be recycled all over again.

How are plastic bottles recycled?

Did you know it only takes ten bottles to form enough material to make a shirt? If a company were to start creating skiwear, it would only require 14 bottles to make the insulation of a jacket, or 114 to insulate an entire sleeping bag.

The fact that regardless of the massive rise in recycling practices in America, only 29.3 percent of plastic bottles make it into a recycling bin is an exciting thought. If we were to increase that number, an entire industry of garments, furniture, park equipment, construction supplies could flourish. A report predicts that the recycled plastic industry has the potential to be worth US $30 billion within the next five years.

Polyethylene terephthalate makes up almost 2/3 of the recycled plastic market, along with high-density polyethylene. Plastic water bottles consisting of PET bring a promising potential to companies looking to head into the reused plastic industry.

Once plastic bottles are collected, the recyclable parts are shredded and melted, and the shreds rewashed to remove any paper and leftover labels. It also ensures that the plastic is clean and free of impurities before moving further, then decontaminated to kill germs and make them safe for reuse. These shreds are eventually dried and then melted again, ready for the flaking process.

The flaking process occurs right before the plastic remade into new items. The melted down plastic is shaped into pellets or tiny flakes before it cools completely. These pellets or chips are collected to make a variety of products, such as those mentioned above. Recycled plastic products are more reliable and more durable than their virgin material counterparts.

Some kinds of repurposed plastic products can be recycled again, while others can’t. It doesn’t deteriorate quickly. And can be used for much longer before being disposed of because of their significant lifespan.

The future of plastic water bottles

With plastic bottles expected to increase by 4.8% by 2025, it’s essential to start thinking about the prospects they have in the manufacturing industry for recycled plastic. They’re being used in the textile industry and packaging industry because these industries previously relied heavily on virgin plastic materials for the production of their products.

“By doing this, we ensure that plastic doesn’t end up in the seas, oceans, rivers, drains, ultimately leading to a cleaner environment.” Anjana Ghosh, Director of Marketing and OSR, Bisleri International.

Nearly everything in the consumer market today has some plastic in it. From the parts of our homes to the parts of our cars, we see plastic playing an essential role in creating the innovative designs and technology we have today. However, consider how much more sustainable these ideas would be if made from reused plastic that’s more reliable, has a longer lifespan, and doesn’t wear down as quickly as its counterpart?

Almost 100 billion pounds of PET used every year. Seventy billion pounds of it is focused on garments and furniture, such as carpets and curtains, while 30 billion directed at the packaging. No matter which industry you’re interested in, there’s always a potential of flourishing with the use of recycled plastic.

As for the initial costs of production when faced with the competition of virgin materials, there are ways to collaborate with the government and municipal setups to give back a portion of your sales in return for assistance with collecting recycled plastics.

Another promising factor to consider is that whether or not you use PET plastic more than twice, the resources that are needed are fewer as well. For example, the crude oil and natural gas required to produce a plastic bottle are only required once, in the making of the original container — the second time you reuse the plastic, the recycled product doesn’t need those resources again. Hence, you’re not only saving money; you’re using up fewer natural resources in the long run.

Final words

Environmental concerns are fast increasing, and with them, the necessity of using recycled plastic in products. With the right collaboration, you will be able to kickstart a business that encourages innovative thinking for new ways of reusing plastic; you will also be saving billions of pounds of plastic from backing up in landfills and polluting the oceans. “It makes a big difference to recycle. It makes a big difference in using recycled products. It makes a big difference to reuse things, not use the paper cup — and each time you do, that’s a victory.”

 

This article was originally published by Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers, Medium.com

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