By Howie Goldfinger, CEO, Ecorite
As I mentioned in my last column, the US generated 40.1 million tons of plastic waste in 2021, and only about 5% of it is recycled. I promised more on this topic and recently two stories crossed my path that confirm that the problem of non-recycled plastic is becoming more widespread and topical.
The first item was covered on CBS News on July 19th and was about a pilot program for plastic film recycling in the town of Red Bank, New Jersey. Like many seaside towns in this area, they have a problem with single-use plastics, more specifically films and wraps and post-consumer waste that end up on the beaches and surrounding shoreline communities. These bubble wraps, bags, and films end are not only unsightly, but are often a menace to local vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic creatures.
The trouble with these products, which are often labelled as recyclable are in fact difficult to recycle in practice; they are often disposed of incorrectly. Plastic bags and wraps also get tangled in the machinery that is designed to handle more hard plastic, which is also more valuable from a recycling standpoint. The town is has launched a pilot program to collect plastic film waste of all kinds in a separate bin, in order to keep it out of the regular recycling stream. The thought is that if enough of this material is collected, it can be sold commercially to some recyclers, and it stays out of landfills and out of the machines and the beaches. It’s a nice thought in theory, however to date, even though the program is in place, at the time of airing the town had not managed to dispose of the material they had collected so far.
This leads me to the second story, by Beverly Golden, an op-ed piece1 about Canada’s upcoming single use plastics ban. This ban will encompass plastic bags, straws, silverware, stir sticks and some plastic films and packaging. The story ends hopefully that the ban will make a difference The rationale is simple. If we stop manufacturing these products, less seabirds will die, less landfills and dumps will be required for the 420 billion pounds of waste (as quoted by the story), and the oceans will be cleaner. It’s going to take more than Canada, though to make this happen, but if we can start cleaning our own back yard first, it seems to me that this is a good beginning.
1 Does Single-Use Plastics Ban Change Anything, Beverly Golden, North York Mirror,