Anyone can be forgiven for assuming all things recycling are related to curbside programs. It is not like we hear about much else. Perhaps there is an occasional mention of taking batteries to a drop-off point or holding on to used motor oil until the next county recycling day, but most of the recycling talk mentions only paper, plastic, and glass picked up by residential refuse haulers.
Industrial plastics do not get a lot of attention even though they are among the most effectively recycled materials in the world. We are talking things like plastic pallets, plastic buckets, PET bottles, industrial totes, and so forth. You might not know much about industrial recycling; more specifically, recycling industrial plastics. Needless to say, it’s not your daddy’s curbside program. It is so much more.
Clean and Pure Plastics
Perhaps you have read news stories explaining the disasters that are most curbside recycling programs. Municipalities recycle only a fraction of the materials available to them thanks to inefficiency and a lack of cost-effective procedures. So what makes industrial recycling programs so much more profitable by comparison? Two words: cleanliness and purity.
Your typical curbside bin contains glass and plastics from the kitchen. The materials may be rinsed out on occasions, but none of the containers is truly clean. This only adds to the time and expense of recycling. You seldom have such problems with industrial plastics.
For example, plastic pallets do not arrive at the recycling center with traces of mustard or mayonnaise still lingering. The material requires very little cleaning, if any at all. And as far as purity is concerned, industrial plastic is rarely mixed with other materials. That’s not the case in a residential curbside bin. Otherwise recyclable plastics can be integrated with glass or paper in a single food container.
Just Reduce and Reuse
Industrial plastic’s cleanliness and purity makes recycling comparatively easy. In a phrase, just reduce and reuse. Memphis-based Seraphim Plastics says there is nothing complicated about it. They can take a load of plastic totes and reduce them to pellets or regrind. Then they run the resulting material through a series of magnets and metal detectors to ensure nothing unwanted ends up in the final mix. That’s it.
By contrast, recycling residential plastics from the curbside bin requires a multi-step process that is both labor-intense and expensive. First, you have to sort the items on a conveyor. You also have to check for contamination. Even the smallest amount of contamination can spoil an entire truck load.
Next, desirable materials have to be cleaned and ready for shipping. Once shipped, they have to be cleaned again. In some cases, additional sorting is necessary. Any unwanted material has to be separated from the wasted material before what’s left is finally reduced.
The Simpler the Better
Recycling industrial plastics works because the process is so simple. When it comes to recycling, simple is better. Simple processes do not require a disproportionate amount of labor. They do not incur extra expenses. They do not take a lot of time or effort.
We don’t hear a lot about industrial recycling programs. That’s too bad because industrial recycling is where it’s at. If more people knew just how effective it was, perhaps they would be more willing to demand changes that would make residential recycling more effective.
One thing we know for sure is that industrial cycling isn’t your daddy’s curbside program. It is simpler, more straightforward, and more efficient. But most of all, it actually works as advertised. It’s no wonder companies like Seraphim Plastics are willing to put the effort into it.