In a video published on February 7, 2016 by television channel Al Jazeera, three young scientists discuss the consequences of “throwaway living” and using durable plastic materials for disposable purposes. In particular, they focus on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling and follow a PET bottle from the toss into a single-stream recycling bin to a recycling facility in California, U.S.. From there, most of the recovered PET bottles go to the secondary plastic market, are downcycled into other products, and eventually end up in landfills. The scientists stress the importance of clean recycling streams in order to recover virgin material for bottle to bottle recycling. Further, they address general issues of waste generation and its disposal in landfills and explain waste to energy technologies such as waste incineration and biogas production from food waste.
An article published on February 8, 2016 by the magazine Ensia takes a critical look at current recycling practices in the U.S. Journalist Amy Westervelt explains that recycled goods are coupled to the commodities market and recycling processes require energy, labor and machinery. Considering these factors, current recycling efforts are not always a favorable solution in waste management, neither from an economical nor from an environmental standpoint, Westervelt writes. In order to decouple recyclable materials from the commodities market and relief local governments from paying for recycling, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws could be enforced which would require manufactures to take back packaging materials and recycle or reuse them. Further, smarter design and disposal of products should be incentivized so as to plan better for products’ end of life and avoid waste as much as possible.
Al Jazeera (February 7, 2016). “Choking the planet: The problem with plastic.”
Amy Westervelt (February 8, 2016). “Is it time to rethink recycling?” Ensia
Food Packaging Forum (December 4, 2014). Plastic recycling.