Revitalizing Plastic Recycling with a System’s Approach

As the public becomes increasingly concerned about packaging waste, clients are asking us for solutions. We define packaging waste reduction strategies, develop customized mathematical models that predict feedstock availability, identify alternative packaging materials, and evaluate technology-based options for plastic waste to energy conversion, recycling, and upcycling for individual clients. 

We recognize that a core problem in plastic waste is a broken recycling system.  The United States built its single-stream recycling system on two assumptions: 

  • we would send our recyclables to China and
  • most recyclable plastics are mono-materials.

These assumptions are no longer true.

RECYCLING IS AN INDUSTRY IN CRISIS
China no longer accepts our waste and packaging is more advanced with multiple layers, coatings, and additives.  Mono–materials are the exception, rather than the rule.  Additionally, the markets for recyclable materials and many municipalities have canceled their recycling programs.  Recycling is an industry in crisis.

Recently, we expanded the reach and scope of our sustainability work to address this problem. Through a collaboration with our parent company, RTI International, and in partnership with the EPA and Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Central Ohio, we’re helping the SWA increase municipal collaboration and support within the plastics recycling industry. Our team is applying our innovation ecosystem framework, which is designed to address complex systemic problems, to establish a plastic recycling industry cluster in the Ohio River Valley.

Our focus includes engaging relevant stakeholders, creating a stakeholder map, assessing the technical, economic, and environmental potential of the industries, and augmenting the stakeholder conversations with additional research.

This project goal is to demonstrate that using a systems methodology we can address a system’s problem: plastic recycling.  By project completion, we will have developed a plan to revitalize plastic recycling in the Ohio River Valley. 

How can we help your organization use and reuse materials more effectively and throughout a product’s lifecycle?  

 

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