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Start a Business from Plastic Waste (preciousplastic.com)
147 points by manx 27 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 98 comments



Despite loving such projects, sometimes I have a feeling that concentration on recycling shifts attention too much from the real causes of waste pollution, such as overproduction, overconsumption and lack of investment in biodegradable materials.


Or even from using truly† recyclable materials like aluminum. If we weren't so obsessed with seeing the liquid inside of containers, many things could be converted to use aluminum.

[Obviously, aluminum waste isn't 100% recyclable, but it's about as close as you can get besides maybe glass.


So why not use glass directly?

I try to buy products in glass bottles that are produced as close to home as possible. Most, but unfortunately not all of those glass bottles are refilled, but at least they are recycled by melting and producing new glass.

I've read some reports that claim that washing is also not ecological, as there are too few facilities in Germany that do this and transportation costs are high. So it's a trade off.


The obvious downsides to glass bottles are weight and fragility.

I personally find them preferable to plastic. But aluminum is (roughly) as light as plastic, and it doesn't catastrophically fail in the way that glass does.


RE your disclaimer what about aluminum isn't recyclable?


You lose some it every time you recycle. Of course in theory you can treat all the aluminum waste and get every gram of metal back, but it's not viable in practice.


Maybe the plastic liner that most aluminum cans have?


That doesn’t really do much to prevent recycling though. When the material is melted, anything like paint or plastic liners are burned off. The main issue that has to be handled are the vapors that are released. (They can be toxic and have to be handled.)


Much of it is burned off, but there are constituents that remain and need to be removed. This is called "dross".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dross

You can actually witness the formation of dross yourself if you make your own aluminum foundry (which is ridiculously easy if you have hair dryer, a coffee can, an empty propane canister, and some charcoal). My understanding is that aluminum oxidization contributes somewhat to this, but it's also caused by what's left over after the plastic and paint have burned.

Granted, I am in no way saying that recycling aluminum isn't 100% worth it. I was merely trying to address the issue before someone might have brought it up. (I've noticed some people despise the use of absolutes and always need to point out that nothing is absolute)

EDIT: For anyone interested in "recycling" their own aluminum, this is almost exactly what I did about 10 years ago, and it was a lot of fun. This guy's casting looks dreadful, though.

https://www.instructables.com/Quick-cheap-and-dirty-aluminum...

There are other tutorials that describe using a soup can as a crucible, which might work for a short time but I think that's pretty dangerous.


Yeah, the plastic liner and the paint add impurities that have to be removed, and of course those components are not recyclable, scant they may be. This isn't to say that the aluminum element itself isn't recyclable, but inevitably there's some loss because of impurities, so I added the disclaimer to save people time from replying with "Ackshually..."


Out of curiosity do you have any idea of how much loss that adds up to (say by mass)?


Off the top of my head, I don't truly know, but I would bet it's a very small fraction. Let's find out...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium#Recycling

> Recycling involves melting the scrap, a process that requires only 5% of the energy used to produce aluminium from ore, though a significant part (up to 15% of the input material) is lost as dross (ash-like oxide).[134] An aluminium stack melter produces significantly less dross, with values reported below 1%.

That amount seems to fit with my amateur experience of melting aluminum cans. Dross pretty much floats up to the top of the molten aluminum, and you basically just scrape it off. Even bar stock aluminum from Home Depot would produce a small amount of it.

According to this page, aluminum is separated from dross in a separate process:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_recycling#Secondary_...

So yeah, the loss is non-zero, but the the recyclability of aluminum might as well be considered infinite, especially in contrast to plastics.


You are going to have to define what "over" means for each of those categories. Contrary to popular belief, I believe people generally consume what they need. It's much of the world coming "online", due to the global prosperity capitalism has enabled, that has resulted in such mass production of things we would do well to get rid of such as single use disposable plastics (that aren't for medical purposes, of course).


Fast fashion is a vivid example of overconsumption, and planned obsolescence would be a good example of overproduction.

Regarding person's "needs" - I believe they are endless up to the point where person can afford them.


If "need" includes paying $NN/mo to rent a storage container to put your extra junk, then sure, people are consuming what they need.


Most was the key qualifier in my statement.

There is no doubt that about 5% of the population have some sort of compulsive hoarding habit. But it wouldn't matter because this is irrelevant to the issue of single use plastics, the thing that generates the most waste in oceans and waterways. Nice attempt at a "gotcha" though. Let's try a good faith dialogue next time.


It's not only that. Do we "need" to consume sodas and bottled water? Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year.

That's just the US. Literally every country I've visited, including third world countries, are consuming ungodly amounts of one-time use plastics. The reason? Plastics make the job of global megacorporations, whose only goal is to make more money, much easier, since they can package their junk food and drinks and ship them the world over.

It's not a "gotcha." I just very strongly disagree, given what I've seen everywhere I've traveled.


Crazy how we use one of the most durable materials on Earth for disposables


There is a process called pyrolysis which basically distills any kind of plastic into oil / diesel fuel.

A number of things can be added to the process, such as pressure, vaccuum, and catalysators, to make it more efficient. It even works on old tyres! The rest is basically sludge or soot which allegedly also can be utilized in some way. It also emits "pyrolytic gases" (iirc) which I guess are bad? Toxic? Bad for the environment? Idk...

Heres one out of tonnes of YT videos:

https://youtu.be/TFuTCpCVSbM


This is an underrated solution. As everyone mentions in this thread, plastic reuse furthers the problem due to microplastic breakdown. Ideally, you're gasifying with plasma [1] [2] [3], with the slag going into road aggregate or other construction processes as feedstock. This doesn't work (yet) at hobbyist/small scale, but is entirely possible at municipal waste stream scale. Plastics (anything really, except metals, soil, and rock) go in, clean burning syngas and slag come out. Could even do carbon capture off the syngas to sequester the CO2 if you colocate somewhere where you can mineralize below ground, and use renewables to provide whatever power you can't recover from generation off the syngas.

This assumes you also outlaw single use plastics/disposable plastics to solve for the other side of the equation.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_gasification

[2] https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1... (Treatment of Plastic Wastes Using Plasma Gasification Technology)

[3] https://netl.doe.gov/research/Coal/energy-systems/gasificati...


I've read about plasma gasification for years, including some nebulous plan for New York City to buy one. But from the Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_gasification_commercial...) it looks like there are a total of 5 sites operating anywhere in the world, which is quite a small number. The Wikipedia page also lists a bunch of failed projects which seem to mostly have been held up by red tape and locals being afraid that it's unsafe or toxic.

Moreover, the Wikipedia page lists these downsides:

* Little or even negative net energy production.

* Frequent maintenance and limited plant availability.

The former I find weird, because landfills don't generate energy either. But the latter could be a problem.

The UNL paper you linked also mentions that such plasma gasification isn't necessarily more profitable than traditional recycling.

This is such a weird angle to me. Safe and environmentally-friendly waste disposal is a public good, specifically one for which the benefits are dispersed across many individuals while the costs are concentrated on whoever has to build and run the facility. So why should we rely on for-profit market forces to produce it in efficient (welfare-maximizing) quantities?

It's strange what in the USA does and does not get seen from this angle. Fire protection, police, drinking water treatment (I think?), and schools are owned and operated directly by towns/cities. But medical facilities & ambulance companies, electricity, sewage/wastewater treatment, and heating fuel are provided by private companies that residents either pay directly or through the town/city government. Not sure about landfills. Garbage collection and road construction are (usually, I think?) contracted out.

I'm sure there are, or were, economic reasons why each of these scenarios evolved the way it did. But inertia is very much a thing, and just because something was sensible in the past doesn't mean it remains sensible today.


A friend has been making clothes from 100% certified ocean plastic: https://seathreads.co/

As a business owner, I don't envy his margins, but I certainly hope to see more companies doing similar in the future. We need to make re-use cool and something to brag about.


Plastic is bad because it degrades into microplastic which is mechanically toxic to life (gets stuck in yer body). Why would you want to wear something toxic? That's like taking asbestos out of the walls and rubbing it on your body. Also, (machine) washing plastic clothes further degrades them into microplastics. Bad idea all around.


Hmm I'm a runner and pretty much everything I wear for running is plastic. The common advice I've gotten is to avoid cotton and it's worked well for me. Anywhere I can read more about this?


Not OP, But I've read about it recently. While, I'm not yet avoiding these products, it's cause for concern.

https://appalachiangearcompany.com/blogs/appgear-insider/you...


Cotton kills, definitely avoid that.

Modern merino wool is a super material, I've moved away from synthetic jerseys entirely. Substantially less stinky, works well in all temps, and not created from plastics.

Eventually we'll understand how to synthesize something as good or better than wool, but for now merino is where it's at.


Merino wool has downsides too. It stains more easily, is more expensive, is less durable, and gets eaten by bugs. IMO it's less comfortable too.


I'd like to know who is advising you against cotton, and why? Unless you are in a strange climate it's one of the best materials for clothing.


"Cotton kills" is a common refrain in rowing because when its wet in cold environments, it can lead to hypothermia. Additionally, cotton is very heavy in water. Basic water safety used to teach that you should strip down, even use your jeans as a flotation device.


Are you saying running clothing, or just clothing in general? Cotton for running chafes a solid amount, and doesn't wick moisture well.


I've tried running in cotton and it is not a pleasant experience, especially in high humidity or rainy conditions (very common where I live).


Silk and wool breaths and keeps fresh much longer without having to wash them all the time. Wool is the best IMHO.


I know microplastics are bad and stuff but I also have to recommend Got Bag (https://got-bag.com/), which is supposedly made out of recycled ocean plastic. I'm not sure if it is or isn't, but they make a great bag. I've had one for a few months now and it's held up well to being knocked around, no frayed material or even any significant scuffs, and it's at least water resistant (if not waterproof) in the rain.


A lot of these plastic-recycling products don't cope with the big issue of pollution with micro plastic particles. I read about making pavement from plastic waste. Sure you can do that, but the plastic will be slowly worn down and the micro particles will pollute everything. That's the same problem with low quality plastics being recycled into household items. I see a health risk here. I will prefer something from wood, glass or metal - or from high quality (and bio-degradable?) plastics.


I am definitely not an expert, but I wonder if it would be viable to recycle plastic into bricks for construction?

It seems like wear would be less of an issue and the bulk properties of the resulting plastic would be emphasized.


One application I did see Precious Plastic recommending was producing long extruded plastic beams like 4x4 lumber. No idea how strong the beam was though.


I have seen hiking path way near water made from recycle plastic maybe 10+ years ago. Don't remember where now. Love to go back and check the durability of them after all these years. Curious about the cost also.


I used to live in an area where several dilapidated wooden paths were replaced with this tuff. I believe the main benefit was that they were supposed to never rot or warp, meaning that their lifetime mainentance cost was significantly lower than wood. I think for the most part they've all held up over 10+ years, but I have no idea if they've been leeching microplastics into the local wetlands.


88% microplastics comes from car tyres [1]. Check out other categories, it's about abrasion, like shoe soles, plastic textiles.

The real issue — plastic is cheap, manufacturing is expensive. As result marketplace is full of fashion items [2].

[1] https://www.ecofario.eco/en/microplastics

[2] https://bazar.preciousplastic.com/products/


It's a very bad idea to use recycled plastic for anything that will face abrasion, harsh temperatures or harsh chemicals, or a combination. Or any plastic really, microplastics don't care about which generation recycling your plastic has been through.

Obviously the most important thing to do is to reduce how much plastic is produced in the first place. Plastic recycling doesn't solve the microplastic issue, it arguably makes it worse, so any scrap plastic should be responsibly burned for energy and that energy should go towards production using materials that aren't plastic.

Use plastic only for products where the use of plastic is necessary for some critical functionality, and cannot be replaced with sustainable, biodegradable, properly recyclable materials. And only for products that are meant to last a long time, all single use and disposable plastic (such as packaging) needs to disappear ASAP.


Seems like a strange jump from “recycling is bad” to “we should burn plastic for energy”.


Then you misunderstand. Recycling is good wherever and whenever reducing or reusing is not possible.

Especially aluminum recycling (and most other metal recycling) is a win-win, both when looking at energy expenditure and environmental impact from mining.

Plastic recycling doesn't work currently. There are too many mutually incompatible types, and sorting is painfully manual and slow, it's exceedingly hard to automate and make efficient. A lot of plastic types cannot be reformed or remolded at all, so the only use for them is to be ground up and used as filler material.

All of this plastic processing just further exacerbates the microplastic problem. The further you grind down and reuse plastic, the worse the end product becomes and the more it sheds microplastic when used or exposed to abrasion, UV light and other forms of wear and tear.

So I propose that we cut the head off the beast, strongly curtail plastic production and try to responsibly get rid of the microplastic-generating plastic we already have. Incineration -when done correctly- is a responsible way of disposal that also generates power. We already burn dioxins and many other harmful compounds to dispose of them safely and with minimal environmental impact, if done correctly.


Anyone interested in starting up some of these recycling facilities as a community project? I'm in Austin and could provide all of the funding but would love some volunteers to help. It would be a non-profit. plasticproject@fastmail.com


Based on today's technology and knowledge, I think every community center should have plastic recycling and reuse, workshop tool library, community garden, and compost.

We can do things super-local now, use it as a teaching opportunity, and use volunteer effort within walking distance to make a change.

Are there any public communities in the world that are actually doing this on a super local basis? Making, Growing, Recycling.


Plastic breaks down is horrible ways and gets everywhere. It's hard to clean well enough to be recycled. Even when recycled it's still constantly breaking down into micro-particles and getting everywhere.

If we can't persuade retailers to use something else I kind of think that the best and cleanest use for single use plastic might be to just incinerate it with a very good scrubber system on the exhaust from the incinerator.

Get the energy back and do something useful with it. e.g. use it as base load for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Anything but let it get buried or broken down and into water courses.


> Get the energy back and do something useful with it.

I fully agree about burning the stuff. You accomplish several important things that way:

- Destroying it, so it's not going to get washed up on random beaches after claiming to be "recycled" by shoving it in a shipping container and sending it to some country who doesn't have the systems in place to say "No."

- Fighting against the marketing of plastics as "clean" and "recyclable." If the stuff is so awful you can't come up with anything better to do than burn it, maybe it's not as nice as it's claimed to be.

- Offset some coal use.

Out in Boise (and a few other places), there's a pilot program to use the "weird plastics" (not #1/#2, which are now collected in a combined system most places, so I wonder if they're actually getting recycled at all) and burn them in a cement kiln. It's the Hefty Energy Bag program, and while one might rightly question a plastic bag company promoting plastics for energy, they've done what looks to be a pretty solid lifecycle analysis on the various alternatives, and "just burning the stuff instead of coal" works out, by far, the best.

https://www.hefty.com/sites/default/files/2021-01/Hefty-Ener...


> persuade retailers to use something else

I've been daydreaming about alternatives.

Wrapping bars of deodorant in rice paper. Making it like a bar of soap that you can hold.

I found a (mostly) bamboo toothbrush. It's ok.

The bamboo dental floss is pretty terrific.

Hoping to never buy fleece or spandex again, I'm still looking for hemp (or whatever) "athleisure" clothing. Like pullovers. (My lame attempts to learn to my make own clothing didn't get very far.)


Deodorant in Cardboard https://www.heyhumans.com/


Exactly! Just like a push up pop. https://i.redd.it/lnwb4plu2kuy.jpg

They have some other interesting products too. Thank!


I see a lot of replacements for more stiff plastics that can be done another way such as the "push pop" deodorants mentioned in other comments.

I'm curious what alternatives there are for squeeze bottle items (ketchup, shampoo, etc.) I know that there are alternatives (obviously ketchup comes in glass bottles) but how do you replicate the squeeze bottle with something other than plastic. Right now I have an image in my mind of a juice box full of shampoo, but I haven't actually seen any replacements like this around.


I think we should also focus on reusable containers ideally made of glass or aluminium. You bring your containers to the grocery store and refill it with whatever you need.


Me too.

I anticipate many products will return to powder form.

eg I intend to try powder shampoos next time I have to restock.


I really like Smart Wool[0]. Really durable product and hi performing — seems to be much more environmentally friendly than synthetic textiles.

[0] https://www.smartwool.com/


They sell clothes made of wool and plastic mix. Nylon, elastane, polyester.


Pretty much anything wool that's form-fitting or otherwise meant for athletics or other activity is gonna have some plastic in it, for the stretchiness. Socks, undershirts, athletic shirts, all that kind of thing.


Consumers don't have much choice besides a recycling bin and a trash bin. Landfills are actually a decent option for plastics because the plastic stays in tact (no shredding - creating more microplastics) and in one place - stopping it from escaping into the local ecosystem. Most will use the recycling bin for plastics because they see that as the best option while not knowing the implications of recycling plastic in the United States.

Norway has a good system where plastic bottles are made with more plastic to make them thicker/durable, and when the bottles are recycled they are cleaned and reused [0].

[0]: https://www.sciencealert.com/norway-s-recycling-scheme-is-so...


Where I live (a US city) we're strongly encouraged to recycle plastic, by a policy that limits trash bags and makes putting out extra fairly expensive, but allows unlimited recycling, including plastic.

The recycling program also uses plastic open-top bins as the standard collection container. You can imagine what this "green" policy causes on windy days. That's right: litter-tornadoes. Been that way for years, all I can figure is whoever's got the contract has important political connections. It's very, very dumb.


Sorry to hear that, policies like that are often in good faith but lack important details like you described. It reminds me of when I went to an earth day fair and one of the tents was selling athleisure made from recycled bottles. It had a sizeable crowd - I was thinking about how many of those who bought something went home feeling like they had done the right thing and had some quality fitness apparel to show for it - only to throw them in a washing machine without a microplastic filter on it.


We had this, then moved to (plastic) wheelie bins that are 120 or 240 litres, but emptied every fortnight.


That article doesn't say the bottles are cleaned and reused, it says they have a bottle deposit system and process the recycled material to a high standard.


"What's more, 92 percent of the bottles recycled yield such high quality material, it can be used again in drink bottles. In some cases, the system has already reused the same material more than 50 times."

Also: "Its success is unarguable – 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway are recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles. Maldum says some of the material has been recycled more than 50 times already. Less than 1% of plastic bottles end up in the environment." [0]

Just articles I found quickly, my friend who split his time between the US and Norway before the pandemic was telling me about it.

[0]: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/12/can-norw...


What do you think "material...used again" and "turned back into" mean there?


The recent articles about delivery drivers peeing in those bottles gives me pause.


This company was recently featured on a BBC Podcast called "People Fixing the World": https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09ddhz6

"Machines to shred, melt and mould waste plastic are popping up in workshops around the world - from the UK to Malaysia, Kenya to Mexico.

The project is being led by an organisation called Precious Plastic. They put designs for the devices online for anyone to download and build themselves.

More than 400 teams around the world are now taking on the challenge of plastic waste using these machines, making everything from sunglasses to plastic bricks in the process."


If billions of dollars spent on various recycling programs fail, I can’t see these homemade machines solving this problem either. It’s clear this is not immune to the sorting problem which is the root cause of why plastic recycling is unprofitable.

I can see this as an educational program for children and adults that ignorantly throw anything plastic into the recycling bin thinking it would be recycled. But in reality, it’s likely going into the local landfill (or overseas).

The only way to solve this plastic problem is to ban all single use applications (ie, cups, straws, takeaway containers, grocery bags, ...).


The latest trick for plastic items is for companies to say they are reusable. So instead of a box of plastic straws, it is now a box with "reusable plastic straws" written on it. Same exact product, but now marketed to get around any single-use bans.


There's a lot of things that can be economically viable at the personal/household scale that can't work at the commercial scale because of the regulatory requirements of a modern first world workplace.

Most of the time when you see a kit to DIY something this is the niche in which it lives.

Not saying the economics work out for this particular thing but just because it's not commercially viable doesn't mean it's not economically viable. You don't see scrapyards hiring people to drive around picking up scrap metal yet people do it for a net profit, same concept.


That’s true, this might actually work if it’s done at the household or neighborhood level. The big problems with recycling plastic are manual sorting and cleaning the gross stuff people leave in it. If you’re recycling your own waste you can tackle those problems easily. If it’s your neighbour’s water then you can ask them to be responsible or lose access to your service and good will.


Plastic needs classified as toxic and treated as such. There are beaches now covered in plastic chips instead of sand (the sand is underneath). The real scary part is waking up one day and realizing that we are infested with microplastics to a dangerous and irreversible saturation point from the natural breakdown. Man made fibers, water bottles, children's toys...all will break down to microscopic levels. We can probably filter it out effectively for drinking but the whole deal is just another log on the fire that humanity has built under themselves.


You know, I actually prefer plastic sand.


The sorting problem is mostly due to people feeling like they can get away with not washing their recyclables and throwing anything into the recycling bin. If you have to deliver those recyclables to a local business in person and they can tell you to your face that you didn’t do it right and you have to take your bin over to a washing station and redo it before you can leave it there you can be sure it won’t happen again.


With the current state of plastic packaging, I don't think most people have the time to do that.

The only way that I could see that being viable is if it was mandated that the plastic class be embossed into the product with a minimum font size, labels be easily removable, and the package be shaped in such a way that it be easily cleanable.


> If you have to deliver those recyclables to a local business in person

But you don’t have to. You can just throw it in the trash or blue lid recycling bin, emptied every Monday.

What motivates someone to spend hours scrubbing and personally delivering clean plastic?


> What motivates someone to spend hours scrubbing and personally delivering clean plastic?

Hence why taxes on fossil fuels should be so high that a plastic bottle costs $10 and plastic toys cost $100, so the alternatives are worth it and the plastic is not made in the first place.


Fossil fuels aren't the only possible feedstock for plastics, just the current cheapest option. If you make fossil fuels more expensive, then people will use ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic


Interesting! I guess there would also have to be a disincentive to use plastics period.


Do hospitals get a special exception or do we go back to risking infection due to insufficient sterilization?


Society is free to allocate more plastic to sterilization, it’ll just have to come from somewhere in society’s “fossil fuel” budget.

The point is the amount of fossil fuel consumption is causing environmental problems, just not in current society’s decision makers’ lifetimes. The only solution is to bring down the amount of fossil fuels consumed.


Yeah, screw poor people. They don't deserve toys anyway.


Poor people and avoiding environmental calamities are separate problems with separate solutions.


If your solution for environmental issues is to make everything dramatically more expensive, they are no longer independent problems.

What would the solution here be? Raise prices on everything containing plastic, but then give the bottom x% of the population money to offset the increased cost? That is a net effect of zero, with lots of inefficiency in the middle.

Increasing prices only works as a way of changing behavior if people feel the effects of the increased prices. You cannot handwave away "poor people will get a separate solution" when your entire proposal is to make people lose money.


One problem is the environmental effects of using a certain product, which in this situation are fossil fuels. The only solution to the problems caused by fossil fuels, from emissions to microplastics, is to decrease the use of fossil fuels period. In order to decrease the use of something, you can increase the price.

Another problem is the income/wealth/opportunity gap between people around the world. This might be solved by transferring income/wealth/opportunity from those that have it to those that don’t. It does not need to be linked directly to taxes on fossil fuels, like most other government expenditures are not linked to specific taxes.

This is not a net zero effect with lots of inefficiency. It’s actually the most efficient way I can think of, certainly more than hoping people sort and clean their recycling properly, ignoring the fact that recycling doesn’t even really work.

The whole point is to make people feel the effects of increased prices. It will mean fewer plastic toys, and toys in general since they won’t be so cheap, less flying, smaller homes and lots since transportation for longer distances is more expensive.

But that is the goal, to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Which all of our modern quality of life revolves around. And why, politically, there will not be a real solution to damage caused by fossil fuels in any relevant timeframe.


Your solution sounds equivalent to creating a permanent economic depression. Good thing that anyone who implements this will be outcompeted by those who don’t.


I’m well aware it would create an economic depression, hence my acknowledging that politically, a real solution is not possible to enact.

Our economy and expectations of life are based on consuming as much as we can, and so we shall. The optimal move for each individual is to enjoy life as much as they can, regardless of the effects of their consumption.

Whether or not it’s a good thing (for descendants) depends on how true predictions like these are:

https://xkcd.com/1732/


Not everyone has that available to them. In my county there is no municipal trash services. It’s all private and the commercial providers make vague references to single stream recycling. I’m skeptical they’re doing a good job of extracting recyclables from waste.


They stuff that garbage into empty container ships where it's 'recycled' in impoverished nations in Asia.


Trillion dollar question.


>What motivates someone to spend hours scrubbing and personally delivering clean plastic?

Image.

If you can convince a bunch of dumb yuppies that they will sound like the hippest hipster in the break room when they chat with all their coworkers about what they're up to they will shovel inordinate amounts of money in your direction. And after a good run at that either you sell out and move down market or someone else comes along and develops a 90% as good solution that's accessible to a much broader cross section of the population.

Pulling that off is the big question though. Premium consumers are more fickle than normal consumers.


> It’s clear this is not immune to the sorting problem which is the root cause of why plastic recycling is unprofitable

Yeah, they depict collectors bicycling around town with a trailer and then washing and delabeling the collected plastic in a domestic kitchen sink. They would have to charge thousands per ton for the clean stock.


What type of plastic types can be recycled this way? From what I read, only a small percent of all plastic product can be recycled.

For instance, bags that are on their logo flag, are not recyclable, in UK when you sorting out recyclable materials they tell you that bags are not suitable for recycling. And in some way they tear quickly and contribute hugely to micro-plastic pollution that goes into food chain.


"not recycleable" sometimes only means its not economically feasable to recycle, which for example is true for diapers too (which make up about 30% of our houshold trash). There is some weird trash town in agypt that over 90% recycling rate especially with plastics (afaik).


Two interesting things, and a third. The first is that the whole business is upcycling disposable products/material into more long term durable ones. The second is the success of the collection depends entirely on the demand for the upcycled products up the supply chain. (extrusion, sheetpress, injection moulding, and the stuff you make out of them) So inventing very long term useful things made from recycled plastic (bricks, roads, large boats) would improve demand for recycling.

The third is the collection point business is a straight bounty program, which seems like the most basic business model in nature. There was a guy who trained crows to trade cigarette buts for peanuts in a machine, and it seems like you could do the same with plastics litter collection. Maybe we could build machines that other wild animals could figure out that accepted litter and waste and returned food.


Wouldn’t upcycling plastic into more durable plastic actually exacerbate the problems with plastic?


Realistically, with the health issues coming up, the microplastics leaching into everything, and the energy-intensive process of reusing plastic, I think we should give up on recycling plastic completely. Bury it back in the oil holes we got it from (this is semi-sarcastic, I know burying it in such a way is not entirely feasible) in the first place below the bedrock and end the age of plastic.


This may sound the like the economists with the $20 bill, but if waste plastic is an untapped and valuable resource then why aren't other entrepreneurs already in the space?

This seems like fun for DIYers and makers, but it can't be viable business, can it?


not really - with being in that project since years, the only guys who make money are the machine builders and the project maintainers on Patreon.


As great as recycling is, less plastic would be better.

Recycling is the marketing tool that the oil industry used to sell plastic.


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