Study points to economic potential of plastics

Study points to economic potential of plastics

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

According to a new study just released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests the state could see substantial economic benefits from increases in plastics recycling.

Conducted by Foth Infrastructure and Envrionment and Moore Recycling Associates, the study found that despite a robust statewide recycling program for many plastics in Wisconsin, an estimated $64 million worth of recyclable plastic materials are sent to landfills each year. Approximately 34,000 tons of plastic materials were separated and prepared for market by 85 materials recovery facilities (MRFs) throughout the state in 2010.

"In addition to the benefits to businesses and employment, increasing plastics recycling would provide environmental benefits by prolonging the life of landfills and reducing pollution," said Cynthia Moore, DNR recycling program coordinator in an accompanying statement.

The study authors single out supply uncertainty as the chief barrier to greater recycling growth in the state, and suggest several strategies to increase the supply and consistency of available material to processors and end-users.

Recommendations include public-private partnerships to double the tonnages of PET and HDPE bottles and containers available to processors, increase ten-fold the amount of plastic bags and film recovered for recycling, substantially increase the collection and recycling of non-bottle rigids, and divert non-recyclable plastics to energy recovery facilities. Were these recommendations successfully implemented, the study expects they would divert an addition 100,000 tons of plastic material from landfill annually and create several hundred new recycling jobs in the state.

Wisconsin's plastics industry (including virgin materials) currently employ 39,800 people with an annual payroll of $1.6 billion.

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