Monday, 20 June 2011
Recycling - getting the balance right
The Oxford English Dictionary defines recycling as ‘The processing of used material into new products’. It might therefore surprise you to know that over 80% of the plastics collected for ‘recycling’ in the UK are simply sorted by type, ground into small pieces, loaded into containers and sent to China or India where they are made into new products. So although, technically, they have been ‘recycled’, this process has taken place over two continents and 12,000 miles. Does this make any sense?
It certainly helps fuel UK PLC’s export drive and plays its part in reducing the trade deficit. Some would argue that it also reduces the amount of material going to landfill in the UK. But surely the whole purpose, and benefit, of recycling is to sort and use our own waste, not sell it to someone else to deal with?
The problem is not lack of investment. Not a week goes by without another multi million pound deal being announced in the plastics recycling sector: hard evidence of significant activity at the processing end of the spectrum. It’s the focus of this investment that troubles us.
Instead of simply concentrating on the processing of used materials with investments in wash plants, sorters, float/sink tanks etc, we should be focusing on the creation of new products and applications. On that subject the news flow gets very thin.
At Iplas we believe that it is high time for a more balanced approach to recycling. We need more investors and entrepreneurs to focus on making new products out of all types of recycled waste, including plastic, rather than focusing on processing and sorting.
We’re not talking here about low-grade junk type products but properly engineered materials that are not only fit for purpose but better than the products they replace. There are plenty of opportunities: we get enquiries about new products and applications almost every day. It’s just a question of getting the balance right.
Posted by Iplas at 08:35