In my opinion: it is essential to fix the recycling infrastructure in the United States


The Cyclyx leader suggests that recycling infrastructure will play a key role in the effective circularity of plastics. | Josep Curto/Shutterstock

Public support for recycling is nearly universal, but today the United States recycles less than in 2018. Only 6% of all plastic was recycled last year. This comes despite widespread attention to the vast amount of plastic waste ending up in landfills and the ocean, harming wildlife and the environment.

The decline in plastic recycling makes no sense given the widespread support, but is easily explained: the recycling infrastructure in the United States is broken. If we want to recycle more and waste less, the country needs a whole new system to get the job done.

Joe Vallaincourt

Joe Vallaincourt

Adding to the challenge, consumers are not well informed about which plastics can and cannot be recycled, what steps to take to recycle and where to do so. We need education, awareness and practical support systems to help households and communities make more plastic recycling possible.

Lack of investment

Another problem with our current recycling system is access and investment. Recycling is a service that competes with local public funds for education, health and housing.

Recently, the US EPA announced $375 million for recycling, reuse and waste prevention programs. This is a significant down payment, but it will take years and billions of new infrastructure investments to change the system to have the desired impact.

The good news is that there are technologies to recycle almost any plastic. By taking advantage of traditional methods, such as mechanical recycling, and newer technologies, known as chemical recycling, there is almost no plastic that we cannot recycle. This includes hard-to-recycle plastics that currently end up in landfills.

But before we get to the recycling process, we need to change the way we manage the plastic waste stream, so that this waste can be used as feedstock, or feedstock, for the production of equivalent virgin plastics.

Today, the recycling system in the United States is broken, and therefore most plastic waste has no chance of being recycled, and so the industry continues to produce new, virgin materials for manufacturing. of plastics.

What is missing is a system that diverts all plastic waste from landfills and a way to sort and identify the different recycling options and outlets where plastic waste can be taken.

Without it, our collective recycling efforts are more welfare efforts than effective, and we will never be able to significantly increase the recyclability of plastic waste. If managed properly, plastic waste can be an important resource for our industrial economy with positive impacts on our environment.

Find a solution

Cyclyx, the company that I am proud to lead, has developed a concrete solution. We have combined technical know-how, new supply chains, the design and development of unique new processing facilities and a consortium-based business model to bring real change to the plastic recycling industry.

To provide the missing link in the system, Cyclyx partners with many companies across a wide range of industries and communities to access and capture all kinds of plastic waste, much of which is currently considered non-recyclable. From there, we combine the power of our plastics characterization data, predictive modeling and unique recipe composition to understand the composition of plastic waste streams and identify the appropriate recycling output.

The access to plastic waste provided by our consortium, combined with our innovative capabilities for analyzing large volumes of plastic waste, allows us to divert more waste from landfills to its best use, bridging the gap between recycling efforts and waste management – and bringing us one step closer to closing the recycling loop and turning plastic waste into a valuable resource.

Our goal is to recycle 90% of plastic waste. We recently launched an exciting effort, 10 to 90, a series of new take-back, education and engagement programs designed to divert more low-quality plastic waste from landfills into our system, where it can be recycled and transformed. into valuable products.

The 10 to 90 initiative will be rolled out in collaboration with cities, retailers, businesses and universities with the goal of improving access and increasing recycling rates at the community level. If we can accelerate plastic recycling locally, we can increase recycling rates globally, improving the environment for everyone.

We can no longer wait for today’s outdated infrastructure to catch up. Scalable solutions like ours will allow us to take meaningful action to end the global plastic waste crisis.

Joe Vaillancourt is the CEO of Cyclyx.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a topic you would like covered in an editorial, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for exam.

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