Recycling Plastic

- what can, what cannot, issues and options

27 May 2019    By Poul Madsen           

Nowadays, everything seem to be made of plastic and it's even wrapped in plastic. And a great part of it ends up in nature if not landfills. It's probably not good for the environment and will affect future generations. Is recycling the obvious answer - or reducing as environmentalists would prefer? So, what can be done to avoid our excessive waste of plastic?

In this blog we've made a list of companies who have done something. We wish to support these entrepeneurs.

The Problems

Plastic is such a wonderful material, and that's one of the reasons manufacturers are reluctant to make changes. Due to low prices on plastic and it's flexible characteristics and it means they can sell cheaper products. And politicians are reluctant to do something that potentially lower the chance of getting reelected. And they all use competition and the risk of loss of work places as an excuse.

Which of course is... bollocks! It wasn't until the sixties plastic started to invade our daily household. You could argue that manufacturing products and packaging using other materials would greatly increase costs and increase the amount of energy and other resources. Well, then use something which at least can be reused!

Recycling has a twist in that hard plastic can be recycled, but soft plastic cannot. Already lots of companies have specialized in recycling hard plastic such as polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and Polyvinylchloride (PVC).

It is possible to compress plastic so it takes up much less space, however, that's a short term solution.

Reducing could be done by using other materials, and that's possible.

One of the issues is contamination - for example plastic used for food packaging or wrapping. That's why some plastic recycling companies require consumers to clean the plastic before disposing it in recycle bins. Many consumers do care, but too many don't, and they are not going to obey. And if consumers can't dispose plastic in recycle bins, they'll dispose it elsewhere - including in the nature!

But for now, we have a vast amount of plastic deposed in landfills or the oceans with more to come! Something has to be done...

Short Term Solutions

There are thousands of websites listing creative ways of reusing plastic items. However, it still leaves us with a massive amount of processed plastic. Reusing plastic is a short term solution. We need to reduce use of plastic or at least to bring used plastic back to the industry as raw material.

Bio-plastic could be a solution, however, since it is not compostable, it will litter like normal plastic. Bio-plastics are made using organic materials instead of fossil fuels. Starch and cellulose from corn and sugarcane. Ref.:

Another example is using materials which requires more energy and rawmaterials than if the product was made of plastic! This is something that claims and they mention examples where "...the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less...". Now, before jumping to cconclusions one needs to consider the background of If it is run by the plastic packaging industry, their claim of course has much less value.

(list of links)

Long Term Solutions

The only long term solutions are either to replace plastic sustainable materials or to develop methods which make it possible to recycle all kinds of plastic.

An obvious solution is to replace plastic used for packaging and wrapping with non plastic materials. The obvious solution is of course: Stop using plastic in industrial production! But that's not going to happen. Stop consuming is not realistic. What is realistic is to replace plastic with recycleable materials - or perhaps consumable materials, for example rice straws.

One such replacement could be possible according to news in 2017 from Also in 2017 published an a reports a solution in which paper replaces plastic as wrapping materials. Ref.:

Among big market players to change direction is Saumsung who according to the wishes to use recycled materials for components in their mobile phones.

Another big player is Lego whose researchers according to the Danish Radio website are on the track finding green alternatives to their plastic items (the article is in Danish).