Second New "bad recycling" Practice: Plastic Recycling?

Recycling plastic by hand?
We know there are groups which would ban or prohibit a practice done well by 85% of people but abused by 15%.   Marijuana, alcohol, electronics exports...  And so we know that it's very risky to publish information about a recycling practice we all do which is 85% nasty.

The second "Bad Boy" trick, practiced by everyone, is a mind-bender ... plastics recycling.  Selling the plastic back to China to be remelted and remolded is classified by Stewards, R2, and free-market exporters alike as a "commodity".  Both Alan Hershkowitz of NRDC and a speaker at ElectronicsRecyclingExpo made the same point - it's different to take an ink cartridge and recycle the plastic than it is to refill it for reuse.

Now, inside our recycling industry, everyone knows that "the perfect should not be the enemy of the good".  We know that the worst shipbreaking and recycling is better than the best mining, pound per pound, of the same material.  We don't like to see ships sunk into the ocean as "reefs" when we know that somewhere else in the world, someone is investing in ocean floor mining (gee, I'm sure that will go splendidly for the environment)....
removing sticky labels BY HAND

They both made the point that the reuse and refilling is done by a brown person.  This seemed enough to imply that the shredding of the ink cartridge (ink is non-toxic in the OEM MSDS)... The problems with this logic are both obvious and subtle.  The subtle one - the problem with plastics recycling - is something that deserves its own post, in Part 2.

I've heard from very reliable sources that plastic recycling in China is the recycling industry which most needs to be cleaned up.   The question is, do we clean it up by boycotting China?  Or if most of the plastic recycled in China anyway comes from within China, are rich nations the only possible source of material for the best Chinese companies who must otherwise compete at pennies per pound with lower common denominator competitors?

The solution is to find the top 10% of best plastics recyclers in China and demand less money from them, to encourage other plastic recyclers to improve.  Banning exports of plastic to be recycled in China is NOT the solution.  This "plastic recycling" export is something all e-waste companies are doing, Steward and R2 and Free market, so perhaps it's the "new big issue", and perhaps Fair Trade Recycling can be the leader.

Stewardship compliant plastic bale
Find someone who wants to do it right.
Give them incentives (cheaper rates) in return.
Trust and verify.

Someplace like,  maybe, Retroworks de Mexico.  The place that my competitors in Arizona said is a Guiyu nightmare.  Whether it's OECD, black, white, brown, yellow or red, let's foster the people who can best address sustainable recycling.

We need a more humble and more cooperative attitude about the developing world, which mines and refines our raw materials, whether from the cradle of mining or the reincarnation of recycling.

In Africa they don't have lined RCRA Subtitle C landfills for residue, TAR, and retorted mercury from LCD lamps.   In the USA, we don't have employees who will hand-remove the labels, metals and tape.  OECD and non-OECD offers no solution to best recycling practices.  And if someone

This Moby video - Natural Blues (Don't nobody know my troubles but God) has an eery end-of-life tie in with televisions and older CRTs... plus it's great music.  Recommended listening, right click to open in its own window.

"Never go into debt to purchase necessities" - my great grandfather, William E. Freeland.

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