Tag Archives: recycling

FTC Finds Company’s “Recyclability” Claims Misleading

Company’s Green Claims for Plastic Lumber Misleading

FTC Order Requires Firm to Have Distributors Take Down Ads With Unsupported Claims

A Wisconsin-based manufacturer of plastic lumber products has agreed to stop making allegedly unsubstantiated claims about the recycled content and recyclability of two of its brands of plastic lumber.

Under the FTC settlement, the company, N.E.W. Plastics Corp., must have credible evidence to support any recycling-related claims it makes, and is required to tell its distributors to remove any marketing material for the two products provided by the company before December 2013.

“Consumers deserve to know the truth about the products they are buying,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Many of them want to buy products that are environmentally friendly, but they can’t do that if they get information that’s wrong or unsupported.”

N.E.W. Plastics Corp., which also does business as Renew Plastics, is based in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, and makes plastic lumber products, including the Evolve and Trimax brands, which are used to make items such as outdoor decking and furniture. It sells the products to consumers through distributors.

In its administrative complaint, the FTC alleges that between September 2012 and March 2013, N.E.W. made false and misleading claims while promoting Evolve and Trimax. Specifically, the company claimed:

    * that Evolve products are made from 90 percent or more recycled content;
    * that Trimax products are made from mostly post-consumer recycled content; and
    * that both Evolve and Trimax are recyclable.

The proposed consent order prohibits N.E.W. from making any statements about the recycled content, post-consumer recycled content, or environmental benefits of any product or package unless they are true, not misleading, and are substantiated by competent and reliable evidence, which for some claims must be scientific evidence.

The proposed order also bars N.E.W. from making unqualified recyclable claims about any product or package, unless the product or package can be recycled in an established recycling program, and such facilities are available to at least 60 percent of consumers or communities where the product or package is sold. If N.E.W. can’t meet these requirements, it must qualify the claim regarding the availability of recycling centers. If only part of a product or package is recyclable, N.E.W. must disclose to consumers which part or portion of the product or package is recyclable.

Finally, the proposed order bars N.E.W. from providing anyone else with the means of making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims. The order will end in 20 years.

Information for Consumers

The FTC has new information for consumers in a blog post on its website. Also the FTC provides detailed guidance to businesses on environmental claims in its Green Guides.

To read the full article from the FTC go to http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/02/companys-green-claims-plastic-lumber-misleading

China recycling cleanup jolts global industry

Business Week By Joe Mc Donald October 03, 2013

BEIJING (AP) — China for years has welcomed the world’s trash, creating a roaring business in recycling and livelihoods for tens of thousands. Now authorities are clamping down on an industry that has helped the rich West dispose of its waste but also added to the degradation of China’s environment.

The Chinese campaign is aimed at enforcing standards for waste imports after Beijing decided too many were unusable or even dangerous and would end up in its landfills. Under the crackdown dubbed Green Fence, China has rejected hundreds of containers of waste it said were contaminated or that improperly mixed different types of scrap.

It is abruptly changing a multibillion-dollar global industry in which China is a major processing center for the world’s discarded soft drink bottles, scrap metal, electronics and other materials. Whole villages in China’s southeast are devoted to processing single products, such as electronics. Household workshops break down discarded computers or appliances to recover copper and other metals. Some use crude smelters or burn leftover plastic and other materials, releasing lead and other toxins into the air. Green Fence is in line with the ruling Communist Party’s pledges to make the economy cleaner and more efficient after three decades of breakneck growth that fouled rivers and left China’s cities choking on smog.

Brian Conners, who works for a Philadelphia company that recycles discarded refrigerators, says buyers used to visit every week looking for scrap plastic to ship to China for reprocessing. Then Beijing launched its crackdown in February aimed at cleaning up the thriving but dirty recycling industry.

“Now they’re all gone,” said Conners, president of ARCA Advanced Processing.

American and European recyclers send a significant part of their business to China and say they support higher quality standards. But stricter scrutiny has slowed imports and raised their costs. The decline in the number of traders buying scrap to ship to China has also depressed prices American and European recycling companies can get for their plastic and metals.

“While we support Green Fence, it has increased our cost of doing business,” said Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, a plastics recycler with facilities in California, Europe and southern China. “It takes longer and there are more inspections.”

At the same time, people in the industry say recyclers that invest in cleaner technology might be rewarded with more business as dirtier competitors are forced out of the market. The crackdown also might create new opportunities to process material in the United States and Europe instead of shipping it around the globe.

China’s recycling industry has boomed over the past 20 years. Its manufacturers needed the metal, paper and plastic and Beijing was willing to tolerate the environmental cost. Millions of tons of discarded plastic, computers, electronics, newspapers and shredded automobiles and appliances are imported every year from the United States, Europe and Japan.

But environmentalists have long complained the industry is poisoning China’s air, water and soil. And Beijing, ever vigilant about possible threats to the legitimacy of one party rule, now wants to be seen as addressing increased public awareness and concern over pollution.

“The waste recycling system in China really needs to be updated to reduce pollution,” said Lin Xiaozhu, head of the solid waste program for the Chinese group Friends of Nature.

In 2011, recycled scrap supplied some 21 percent of the nearly 100 million tons of paper used by Chinese industry, according to the state-run newspaper China Daily. It said that resulted in a savings of 18.7 million tons of wood.

In Europe, electronics recyclers recover about 2.2 million tons of plastic and metal annually and send about 15 to 20 percent of that to China, according to Norbert Zonnefeld, executive secretary of the European Electronics Recyclers Association. Its 40 member companies include electronics manufacturers and copper smelters.

European recyclers welcome China’s tighter enforcement because it will help them comply with European Union rules on tracking waste and ensuring it is properly handled, said Zonnefeld. Still, he said, some traders have run into trouble.

“I have heard material has been sent back,” said Zonnefeld. “Of course, they should have known. They were just gambling.”

The United States relies even more heavily on China to recycle its waste.

Americans threw away 32 million tons of plastic in the form of packaging, appliances, plates and cups last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 1.1 million tons was collected for recycling.

About half of plastic soft drink and water bottles collected in the United States for recycling are sent to China, according to Kim Holmes, director of recycling for the Society of the Plastics Industry in Washington. She said nearly all plastic from U.S. electronics waste is exported to Asia.

“The export market is a major component of the broader U.S. recycling industry,” said Holmes in an email.

China allows waste shipments to contain no more than 1 percent unrelated material. But Customs officials say some were found to be up to 40 percent unrecyclable trash.

“Some unscrupulous traders, in order to maximize profit, smuggle medical and other waste inside shipments, a direct threat to everyone’s health,” said a Shanghai Customs Bureau statement in April.

Despite a ban on imports of used tires, inspectors intercepted a 115-ton shipment of them in March, the bureau said. They were labeled “recycled rubber bands.”

ARCA Advanced Processing dismantles about 600,000 refrigerators a year and recovers 80 tons of plastic a week, plus copper, aluminum and other metals, according to Conners. He said those still are sold to traders who ship much of it to China, but the number who can satisfy Beijing’s requirements to separate and clean waste has plunged.

“There used to be guys who would come to our facility probably once a week to buy our plastic to take back to China,” he said. “That has gone down to where I have two vendors who still are able to do business to get it into China.”

In a reflection of more stringent controls, customs data show Chinese imports of waste plastic fell 11.3 percent in the first half of this year compared with a year earlier to 3.5 million tons after soaring over the past decade.

MBA Polymer’s facility in the southern city of Guangzhou, in the heart of China’s manufacturing industry, can process 40,000 tons of plastic a year, according to Biddle. It transforms waste into pellets to be used as raw material for new products. Buyers include Chinese manufacturers that work for companies such as computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. and consumer electronics giant Philips NV.

Biddle said he welcomes Green Fence despite the disruption of imports because higher standards will favor more responsible companies.

“We’ve had to compete for raw materials with people who treat the materials not in ways that protect workers or the environment,” Biddle said by phone from California. “I see China moving toward encouraging companies like ours to develop.”

Conners said that by raising the cost of dealing with China, Green Fence might make it profitable for more Western companies to conduct the whole recycling process themselves. He said his company is looking at possible ventures to do that with partners.

“The advantage China had has been reduced considerably. That advantage was low-cost processing,” he said. “This is going to spur investment in the United States to process materials here.”

To read the original article:
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-10-03/china-recycling-cleanup-jolts-global-industry

A lot of US plastic isn’t actually being recycled since China put up its Green Fence

By Gwynn Guilford

For many environmentally conscious Americans, there’s a deep satisfaction to chucking anything and everything plasticky into the recycling bin—from shampoo bottles to butter tubs—the types of plastics in the plastic categories #3 through #7. Little do they know that, even if their local trash collector says it recycles that waste, they might as well be chucking those plastics in the trash bin.

“[Plastics] 3-7 are absolutely going to a landfill—[China’s] not taking that any more… because of Green Fence,” David Kaplan, CEO of Maine Plastics, a post-industrial recycler, tells Quartz. “This will continue until we can do it in the United States economically.”

The Green Fence went up…and it’s not coming down

Kaplan is referring to an initiative the Chinese government launched last year ostensibly to reduce pollution. Dubbed “Green Fence,” the policy bans the import of all but the cleanest, most tidily organized bales of reusable rubbish—and bars some types altogether.

The program was supposed to end in November of 2013. Now Chinese industry sources say that Green Fence is here to stay, reports American Metal Market, supporting what many in the US recycling business have suspected.

Before Green Fence, when American households and businesses recycled their plastic, for the most part what they were really doing was sending it for collection at US recycling companies. Some of that plastic trash would be shredded, granulated and packed into bales, while other types were simply bundled up as is. US recycling companies would then export it to China.

The many lives of plastic junk

Why would China import this? Plastic has many lives. That means that what to Americans is just a used Stonyfield Farms yogurt container is actually valuable raw material to Chinese manufacturers, which use the plastic resin from the processed tub to make everything from laptop cases to cosmetics. Chinese recyclers would import the bales of used plastic, sorting the valuable stuff from the chaff, cleaning it and breaking it down into plastic resin that can be remolded by manufacturers.

Recycled plastic resin is much cheaper than “prime”—i.e. new—plastic resin. The vast majority of what’s used in plastic packaging still comes from prime resin, though that can be supplemented by resin from recycled plastics to make it cheaper. Particularly for manufacturers in countries with a high degree of worry about the environment, being able to say that recycled plastics were used to make a product counts as valuable marketing as well.

The US may have Save the Earth campaigns to thank for the embrace of recycling. But more likely, it was made possibly by China’s emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse. The more China made, the more it needed used plastics, eventually sucking up around two-thirds of the US’s plastic scrap each year, worth several billion dollars.

Cheap plastic’s toll on China’s environment

But China’s cheap plastic came at a cost. Anything recyclers couldn’t use was heaped onto China’s growing massif of trash mountains. Worse still, the majority of recycling processors are small firms—often mom-and-pop operations—that pollute heavily but are hard to regulate.

As outrage among the Chinese public over the country’s noxious air and befouled waterways has surged in the last few years, the Chinese government has scurried to respond. Maine Plastic’s Kaplan thinks that’s what’s behind Green Fence.

“Because China got this bad press for pollution, the Chinese government says, ‘You know what? It’s because of importation of plastic scrap. The reason… that people can’t breathe in Beijing is plastics emissions,’” he tells Quartz. “That seems kind of arbitrary.”

Though China obviously has many more severe sources of pollution, Green Fence’s suspension of 247 import licenses for domestic recyclers will force smaller outfits out of business, making environmental regulation easier for the government.

Plus, China actually needs the US’s and other countries’ plastic in order to meet the demands of its manufacturers. Perhaps to take address that, the Chinese government announced plans for 100 pilot Recycling Economy Cities where it will invest in developing infrastructure for recycling.

Time for a US recycling renaissance?

Historically, higher labor costs and environmental safety standards made processing scrap into raw materials much more expensive in the US than in China. So the US never developed much capacity or technology to sort and process harder-to-break down plastics like #3 through #7.

Green Fence might be a chance to change that, says Mike Biddle, CEO of California-based recycling company MBA Polymers. “China’s Green Fence offers a real opportunity to the US government and recycling industry to step up its efforts on recycling and catalyze a strong domestic recycling market in the US,” Biddle said at a recent webinar on Green Fence.

Kathy Xuan, president of Parc Corp, one of the few US companies that processes post-industrial and post-consumer scrap, agrees that Green Fence will be good for the US. “Definitely it’s going to create a lot of job openings,” Xuan tells Quartz, adding that “every job China did can be done here, but it costs more.”

More demand from US manufacturers

China’s virtual monopoly on processing made it so US manufacturers imported raw materials mostly from China. But with Green Fence shutting down processors, supply of plastic resins is much scarcer.

Parc Corp’s Xuan says more US companies are now buying from her company. The lower supply of plastic resin will presumably help other US recyclers because it will raise prices enough to allow them to hire and invest in new capacity.

But it will take time

It might not be that simple, though.

Developing new recycling capacity in the US will “eventually” benefit the country, says Maine Plastics’ Kaplan. For the moment, though, Green Fence restrictions have blocked Chinese demand for his company’s clean, sorted post-industrial scrap. And while US and other countries’ manufacturers need that scrap as well, finding those markets takes time.

Plus, the proximity of Chinese manufacturers to the Chinese plastic processors kept transportation costs down. Green Fence has changed that. New markets for processing and sorting plastic scrap are growing in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. But “after [the plastic is] processed, they send it to China, which costs extra money, which means we get less for the material,” says Kaplan.

With Green Fence remaining in place, unless US manufacturing demand for plastic resins picks up a lot, margins are likely to remain uninviting for all but the biggest US recyclers.

What does that mean for consumers? Given the choice, the best answer’s probably “paper.”

For the full article visit: http://qz.com/122003/plastic-recycling-china-green-fence/

Plastics Recycling-Where Did We Go Wrong Mentally?

 

Ok before the recycling folks and their allies come Para Trooping into my office and try to seize my computer, I need to get out right away that recycling IS good and should be pursued to every extent possible.  This rant is about how best to accomplish this without essentially putting our heads in the proverbial sand!!!

I came across an interesting article in Waste & Recycling, “Coffee makers wrestle with recyclability of single-serve pods” where it speaks to the challenges with recycling single serve coffee pods made by Keurig which was acquired by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.  Apparently since 2009, the company Terra Cycle has been able to capture 25 million of similar discarded single-use cups, and has been attempting to make good use of them, but it sounds like it is very difficult to nearly impossible to recycle them.  Also, the article says that, “approximately 13% of the U.S. adult population drinks coffee using these single-use cups.”

So let me get this straight:  Approximately 40 million (13% U.S. Population) of these containers are discarded EACH DAY, and the recycling efforts over a 2 year period to recover these cups has amassed a whopping 25 million?  Of which there has not been any useful value found for these lucky cups?  Am I the only one that sees a problem here?  In 2 years it has taken a noble attempt by Terra Cycle (I have much respect for this organization, awesome innovators!) to get nearly half of ONE days worth of consumption of cups, to then turn around and make a useless pile of cups, all in the name of recycling!!!???  Is there no other way to approach this end of life issue?  Is this the best thing we can do with this issue right now –today?  Why does recycling feel so good for the marketplace?  I repeat; 1/2 days’ worth of material collected over the span of 2 years, with no outlet in sight, yet we turn a blind eye to this complete failure because it is labeled “recycling”…so many questions and comments.

So at this point, I should proclaim the easy answer -after all it is easy to be a critic and to point at what is not happening -or flat out failing.  But I do not propose to have an easy answer or “silver bullet” to cure all, but I do have sense enough to see that we need to quit being so brainwashed into thinking recycling is the silver bullet as well.  It is clearly not working alone in that only 7-9% of all plastics are being recycled.  And lets not forget that a vast % of our recycled plastic WAS going to China, and now may not find a home as China’s “Green Fence” is clearly revealing.  We need to incorporate a multifaceted approach to our waste issues and material resources.

What if these cups were made to biodegrade in a landfill where they most likely belong?  75.8% of all Municipal Solid Waste goes into landfills that capture the biogas created by biodegradation.  There has been unprecedented growth in utilizing Landfill Gas to Energy (LGE) in the U.S. recently as the experts now understand that it is better to promote and capture this alternative source of energy, rather than try and stop nature taking its course and entomb or dry landfill our waste.  The “no smoking” signs on an old landfill turned golf course has to make one nervous and draw some obvious conclusions-we cannot stop nature from taking its course. (:

Lastly, the Utopian Societyists say we need to move to 0% landfills.  I say that this is wrong and absolutely impractical.  We should rather be saying we need to achieve 0% waste.  If composting is considered Organic Recycling (which by the way creates 0% energy and captures LITTLE to no emmissions) then similarly, LGE is a valuable alternative to creating useful end of life values towards 0% waste.  Picture that huge pile of unusable “lucky because they were recycled” coffee cups and tell me I’m wrong.  Can we PLEASE do more than bury our heads in the sand and actually address today and tomorrow and not let “best” practices get in the way of the good we could do NOW?  If the total recycling rate of all plastics is 7-9%, that means roughtly 91-93% of our plastics is going to a landfill where it has no further value.  If they were biodegradable plastics like the kind ENSO Plastics assists brands and manufacturing to create, they would slowly biodegrade and be an excellent feedstock to LGE.  If you are one that thinks that recycling is the only answer, I ask you to shift your mentality and question status quo, question what is popular as “best practices” with our waste and push for a multi-pronged approach to our sustainability.  People are smart if they open their eyes and minds to innovations and bury their head in a more progressive endeavor like answering the question, “What more can we do?  Today?”   

-Del Andrus

 

China does not want our trash.

China puts up a green wall to US trash

Written By:
Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2013 Beijing

US recyclers are nervous about losing their largest market after China began enforcing new environmental laws this year.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the soda can that you toss into a recycling bin? Chances are high that it ends up in China – like 75 percent of the aluminum scrap that the United States exports. Or 60 percent of its scrap paper exports. Or 50 percent of its plastic.

But a new Chinese edict, banning “foreign rubbish,” has thrown the international scrap and waste trade into turmoil and is posing a major new challenge for US recyclers.

Operation Green Fence, a campaign by Chinese customs to strictly enforce laws governing the import of waste, “could be a game changer,” says Doug Kramer, president of Kramer Metals, an international scrap dealer in Los Angeles. “A lot of companies have used China as a dumping ground, getting rid of … substandard scrap and trash,” Mr. Kramer says.

As China’s government seeks to raise environmental standards, he says, “I understand China’s need to take a hard look” at its imports.

That hard look, involving stepped-up inspections of containers filled with scrap metal, paper, and plastic at Chinese ports and a merciless application of the rules, has intercepted more than 800,000 tons of illegal waste since the campaign began in February, according to the customs agency.

Now nervous traders are refusing to ship consignments of recyclables that might contain unacceptably large amounts of unrecyclable materials (anything from unwashed items to the wrong kind of plastic to random bits and pieces of garbage that get mixed in with the recyclables). And cities and towns across the US and Europe are finding there is no longer a ready market in China for their poorly sorted and often impure bales of plastics, paper, and other waste.

“A butterfly in China has caused a tornado in Europe,” Surendra Borad, chairman of Gemini, the world’s largest collector of waste plastic, told the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), an international federation of recyclers, at its annual convention in Shanghai last month.

Why China needs the West’s scrap

However, China is not bringing down the hammer on every kind of scrap (and “scrap” is the preferred term of art). The country has few resources of its own, and its fast-growing industry relies heavily on reprocessing other countries’ plastic soda bottles into fabrics, or their junked metal into machinery.

“Making proper use of this scrap supplements China’s resources, helps save energy, protects the environment, and boosts economic efficiency,” Li Xinmin, a former pollution inspector at the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, told a recent meeting of the China Metals Recycling Association.

But in China, much of the imported plastic scrap, for example, is recycled in primitive, family-owned workshops with no facilities to treat waste water before it flows into local rivers. And Chinese recyclers “have got used to expecting 20 percent trash” in the bales of mixed plastics they buy from the US, according to David Cornell, technical consultant to the Washington-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.

That trash has to be sorted from the recyclables, then buried or burned, further degrading China’s environment.

Though Chinese regulations have long banned excessive levels of contamination in imports of recyclables, they were rarely enforced until Green Fence was launched, traders say. “Before, we were able to import dirty materials and bottles, but not any longer,” explains Sun Kangning, who owns a small plastics recycling plant in the village of Laizhou in Shandong Province (see sidebar on the industry’s woes).

Since February, he says, 24 shipping containers of plastic waste that he had bought from the US have been turned away by customs – about 20 percent of his business.

Because the government finds it hard to control all the mom and pop makeshift recycling workshops, it appears to have chosen to enforce environmental standards on imports at the pier.

Those imports have been skyrocketing in recent years. Scrap was America’s top export to China by value in 2011 – worth $11.3 billion, according to US trade figures. (Last year, record soybean sales knocked scrap and waste into second place.)

Also in 2011, the US exported 23 million tons of scrap (a little less than half of everything that was collected for recycling). Two-thirds of it went to China, according to figures from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in Washington. ‘We don’t have the capacity’

The international trade has boomed partly because the US cannot dispose of all the waste it generates; the country has neither enough recycling facilities nor sufficient manufacturing demand for all its scrap.

“If the US border were closed, most of the scrap that is exported today would go to landfill,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “We don’t have the capacity to absorb it all.”

The rising overseas sales of paper, aluminum, copper, plastics, and steel also have to do with the nitty-gritty economics of America’s trade deficit with China.

Because China exports so much more to America than it buys back, the shipping containers from Shanghai that are full of computers, mobile phones, and TVs on the journey to Long Beach, Calif., risk returning empty for the trip back.

Shipping companies, seeking to cut their losses, offer bargain rates on their westbound freighters: It is cheaper to ship a 40-foot container full of iron scrap from Los Angeles to a Chinese port than it is to send it by train to a foundry in Chicago. US and Chinese scrap merchants have not been slow to take advantage of the deals.

At the same time, sorting and recycling is a lot cheaper in China, where wages are a fraction of US levels. At Mr. Sun’s courtyard processing plant, for example, women using box cutters to strip labels from plastic soda bottles before they are ground up earn about $15 for a day’s work.

Such factors have made the world “over-dependent on China” for scrap recycling and vulnerable to sudden changes in the rules, such as Green Fence, worries Mr. Borad. “That is a matter of concern.”

Some traders say the new policy in China has forced them to sell their scrap in different countries, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where it is either reprocessed or simply sorted and cleaned to the new Chinese standards and then shipped on to China.

“We’ve seen a pretty good uptick in shipments to Southeast Asia,” says Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist. But capacity there “is not sufficient to take up the slack from China,” he adds.

Nor are the new destinations likely to tolerate being the planet’s trash can indefinitely, predicts Kramer, who sells American scrap iron and nonferrous metals in several Asian countries. ” ‘If you can’t send it anywhere else, send it here’ is not the kind of message anyone wants to send,” he says. How long will this last?

Some businesses do not expect Chinese customs officials to go on being so zealous for long. Indeed, previous similar crusades have petered out in the past, and the General Administration of Customs in Beijing has announced that its current campaign to “reinforce inspection and prevention work in key areas” will end in November.

But well-placed observers do not think that the old lax habits will reassert themselves. “Before Green Fence, both companies and customs officials were unclear about the laws and regulations,” says Wang Jiwei, secretary-general of the China Metals Recycling Association. “After the campaign, both sides will understand the laws better, and I think they will continue to be enforced.”

The first four months of the campaign have certainly hit the Chinese recycling industry – raising prices for some recyclable materials that are now in shorter supply. “Our industry is really facing a very big adverse impact from the stricter environmental standards,” complained Huang Chongsheng, chief executive officer of aluminum scrap smelter Ye Chiu Metal Recycling at last month’s BIR conference.

US recyclers, too, are beginning to feel the effects, especially those who collect, sort, or trade low-end materials, such as the cheaper sorts of mixed plastics often extracted from household waste.

“The market for mixed rigids [such as plastic yogurt containers, margarine tubs, or buckets] has gone to hell in a handbasket,” says Jeff Powell, publisher of Resource Recycling magazine. “Mixed paper and mixed plastics are being put into landfill” now that they cannot be sold to Chinese recyclers, he adds.
What next?

“We used to send garbage because it was the cheapest thing to do and because the Chinese would accept it,” Mr. Powell explains. The new Chinese policy, he says, will force US recyclers either to sort recyclables more carefully, or to recycle more material in the US, or both.

“We are going to find ourselves forced to be much more innovative” in dealing with waste, predicts Michael Schipper, a scrap trader with International Alloys in Mendham, N.J. “We will have to find ways of processing that material here in a much more cost-effective way.”

US processors “are beginning to dip their toes into” that future, says Mr. Schipper, but they are constrained by the cost of more sophisticated machinery.

Already, however, US businesses handling scrap are dealing with it more carefully, according to Steve Alexander, spokesman for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers. “People who took the easiest route” before by baling and selling heavily contaminated material “may be running it through a second sorting step, putting it through optical sorters,” he says, because that is what the market now demands.

That means that more of the plastic ends up where it is meant to be, and less gets thrown away or burned, either in the US or in China. “Environmentalists love Green Fence,” says Powell.

“We are at a turning point in our business,” Gregory Cardot of the French waste management firm Veolia Propreté told the BIR conference. “We have to seize this opportunity … for a sustainable environment for our planet.”

If the new Chinese policy lasts, predicts Borad, “the fly-by-night exporters will be eliminated. Green Fence will be a blessing in disguise for our industry.”

Written By:
Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2013

landfill biodegradation

Manufacturers Beware!

Have you ever thought about where your plastic garbage goes?

Shopping for items packaged in plastic may end up costing you more in the long run; that is, if you discard the packaging incorrectly. The same could be true for plastic manufacturers if California passes their latest bill (Assembly Bill 521) on “extended producer responsibility”.

Right now; in San Francisco, California it is against the law to not recycle your trash.  That’s right…you; as a law abiding citizen must separate all of your garbage, recyclables, and compostable items.  To ensure that all citizens are complying with this law, trash auditors check garbage bins the night before it is scheduled for pickup. If you do not comply after several warnings, the non-complying residents will receive fines and/or have to take educational classes on recycling.

Taking this a step further, California is now working towards making plastic manufacturers responsible for the end of life of their product; ultimately, charging hefty fines for material that is not disposed of properly.  (This, after recently making the word biodegradable illegal on labeling)

So who is responsible for all of this plastic pollution that is littering our oceans and filling our landfills? Is it the consumer?  Is it the plastic manufacturer? Is it the recycling industry? (Who happens to discard more plastic than it recycles.) California may think they are doing the right thing by penalizing those who are in the path of plastic – from beginning to end – but they’re not supporting or encouraging better solutions…so who’s fault is it, really?

Despite whose responsibility this may be; it leads to a very important question…”Why are we not producing plastic that is biodegradable or even marine degradable? And, (ok, two questions) if there is a solution, why, as consumers and manufacturers, are we not jumping on that solution?”

I think that if there is a solution to this plastic pollution problem and a plastic manufacturer is using a product that is proven to be biodegradable and/or marine degradable, they are showing their end-of-life responsibility and it should be encouraged and rewarded amongst those companies; as well as, consumers who use such a product.

Does such a product exist?

Yes!

ENSO Plastics has created an additive, that when added to the plastic manufacturing process will cause the plastic to become biodegradable; as well as, marine degradable. There are two customizable blends that offer many options to manufacturers – ENSO RESTORE and ENSO RENEW.

This is the solution California needs to recognize, before they start penalizing all of their citizens and plastic manufacturers. California may want to make the people responsible, but I think the state needs to be responsible by allowing new technology and better options for their residents and local commerce.

Wake up California! The solution is staring you in the face!

 

Paid to Recycle

Should Consumers Be Paid for Their Valuable Recycable Materials?

How to improve recycling rates is a topic that I have thought about over the years.  There is much debate within the recycling community on how to do this.  After all we have been recycling here in the U.S. for over 30 years and yet we recycle less than 8% of all plastics.  If we look at specific segments of plastic materials we have a higher percentage rate in the 20’s.  Still if you had a choice of a 8% verse a 90+% success rate of handling plastics which would you choose?  The obvious answer is a solution in the 90+%.  This is the approach ENSO has taken with developing our biodegradable additive.  Why not have the best of both worlds – recyclability and biodegradability?  The paper industry has been doing it for decades; recycling a material that is also biodegradable.

Some recyclers would have you believe that we need to desperately protect the 8% and by doing so will result in higher collection rates.  The truth is that increasing collection rates and improving recycling is a complex problem and involves all of us to work together to achieve.  It involves communities working towards the common goal.  A great example is aluminum recycling.  When I was a kid many people would collect soda can and hand them in to make money (incentive).  People had an incentive to take the time to collect and bring in aluminum cans to exchange for money.

Is the day coming when recyclers will pay consumers for their recyclable materials?  Some recycling programs such as Greenoplis, … have already taken this approach and have seen some success.  Would consumers become more incentivized to help in the process of recycling?  Would it change our perception of plastic packaging from being more disposable (trash) and more valuable?  I think so, and I think that until we incentivize consumers and change perceptions of the value we place on plastics, the old method to motivate consumers to recycling through the “feel-good” or “guilt” response will never result in high recycle rates.

I’ve often thought about what it would look like if retailers such as Wal-Mart opened recycling facilities right in their stores.  Where consumers would return all plastic packaging of products sold in the store.  As an incentive Wal-Mart could offer discounts or other value added benefits to consumers to get them to bring back plastic and other types of packaging materials to be recycled.  An influential company like Wal-Mart could then require companies to use specific types of packaging, possibly eliminating packaging that is more challenging to recycle.  There are many ways that this type of program could benefit recycling, giving companies and brands that sell products within the Wal-Mart stores could be provided incentives to use the recycled material or reuse the packaging again and again.

If recyclers really want to get serious about protecting their business, stop squabbling over the little things and focus on the bigger goal – MORE, MORE, MORE!!!   More than 90% of your potential revenues are going into landfills; use some of that effort to figure out how to get it!!

 

Update:  Monday May 20th, 2013

I ran across an editorial today in Waste and Recycling News titled, “Editorial: Big Brother in San Francisco?”  This deeply disturbing article outlines what the city of San Francisco is doing to enforce its citizens to better sort waste material.  The city has hired auditors to go through trash cans to make sure that residence are properly sorting their waste – green bin material in green bin, recycle in the recycle bin and so forth.  For those residents that don’t comply or don’t quite sort their waste correctly the auditors are responsible to notify resident of their mistake and for those who regularly don’t get it right there will be fines issued and or educational classes to attend.

My earlier blog discussed the idea of incentivizing its citizens as a method to help improve recycling and waste management processes.  In other words how do we better motives people to get involved in this issue and improve recycling.  Although our freedoms are slipping quickly, I still believe we are a free people and should bring people together to solve our problems.  San Francisco is an example of the exact opposite approach; create laws and to ensure everyone complies  create a policing force that levies fines to those not in compliance until all of those citizens do comply.   This sounds like pages taken right from an George Orwell novel although its not from a book, its real…

http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130520/OPINION/130529996/editorial-big-brother-in-san-francisco

http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130520/NEWS02/130529999/whos-that-rifling-in-the-trash-san-franciscos-cart-inspectors?utm_campaign=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=daily_email&utm_source=daily_20130520&utm_content=article1

 

 

New York City expands recycling program to include all rigid plastics

New York City residents can now place all rigid plastics in their recycling bins.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the expansion of the city’s recycling program at a news conference Wednesday.

“Starting today, if it’s a rigid plastic – any rigid plastic – recycle it,” said Bloomberg. “There’s no more worrying about the confusing numbers on the bottom. It doesn’t matter it anymore. If it’s rigid plastic recycle it.”

By expanding the city’s recycling program to include rigid, Nos. 3-7 plastics, 50,000 tons of material that had been going to landfills will be recycled, the mayor said.

“It will save taxpayers almost $600,000 in export costs each year,” he added.

The program expansion starts immediately. Residents are being asked to rinse their plastics before putting them into the bin.

The city has partnered with Sims Municipal Recycling on the expansion. Sims will process the plastics that previously could not be recycled, and later this year Sims plans to open a recycling facility in Brooklyn, the city said.

“With the expansion of plastics recycling we are making the New York City curbside program as inclusive as any in the nation,” Robert Kelman, president of Sims North America Metals, said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of advance that was envisioned when we entered into this long term collaboration with the city and we remain hopeful that increasing the types of plastics recycled will lead to higher recycling rates for metal, paper and other recyclables.”

Not included in the city’s new recycling program are single use plastic bags, plastic film and polystyrene foam.

The expansion is part of a wider New York City recycling initiative to double the city’s recycling rate – now about 15% — by 2017.

Read the full article at Waste & Recycling news;

http://wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130424/NEWS02/130429965/new-york-city-expands-recycling-program-to-include-all-rigid-plastics

 

Plastic Recycling: Green or “GREEN”?

 

Recycling is all about the environment, conserving our resources and greening our planet.

Isn’t it?

With the recent onslaught of laws angled at restricting the types of materials allowed to be recycled, one could start to wonder. After all, technically all these materials can be recycled. Are they implying that we should not encourage recyclers to find outlets for new materials? As companies are pushing for new materials that are more sensitive to our fragile environment, recyclers are pushing for laws that prevent recycling these materials, because they want to “protect” their profits and use of traditional plastics?

Are you kidding me?

Sounds a bit more like the green they are pursuing is the money in someones pocket. Even NC Representative Brawley’s site positions “These companies are developing new and innovative technologies to recycle plastic, including the development of new types of degradable and biodegradable plastic materials designed to decompose in landfills or when they are exposed to soil, water, and other natural elements over time. This has great benefits for our environment.” and then at the same time, acknowledges that despite the environmental benefits, we should protect petroleum based plastic recycling. I hear dollar signs  $$$..

I may be out in left field, but wouldn’t it make sense to send all materials that have the potential to be recycled to the recyclers and encourage them to find new and innovative ways to recycle those materials? Why are we OK with only recycling a few select materials?

With the latest reports on recycling rates in the US, it definitely seems our recycling infrastructure has a terminal illness; traditional medicines are not working to solve this illness. PET bottle collection rates are stagnant, HDPE recycling rates have dropped and there is no plan in sight to fix this. Even NAPCOR recognized this in their recent statement “without additional collection efforts or NEW STREAMS OF MATERIALS, the increased capacity will only serve to drive prices to unsustainable levels” and from Scott Saunders of KW Plastics Recycling “unfortunately, the recycling rate is going to stay where it is unless some NEW IDEA pushes recyclers forward.”

How about this NEW IDEA to provide NEW STREAMS OF MATERIAL:

Let’s place all clean materials (paper, plastic, metal, wood) in our blue bin and use the subsidies paid to recyclers to find out how to effectively recycle. and if that seems too radical check out this new idea that is already 5 times more effective than recycling: 35% success rate for waste management

I find myself placing plastics and other recyclable material that are not “on the recyclable list” in my blue bin in hopes that my little bit of rebellion will encourage recyclers to find ways to utilize these materials.   I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject.

Are you confused about recycling?

Are You Confused About What to Recycle?

When is the last time you asked yourself or someone else if something was recyclable?  It a common question and one that gets many different answers depending on what packaging or material you are asking the question about.

Most recycling programs will have information readily available to the public on what they will accept in the recycle bins.  This list however is quite small and becomes apparent that what recyclers are looking for is the cream of the crop.  If you are anything like me you put everything in the recycle bin and hope that it will motivate recyclers to start taking more material.

People in general want to do the right thing and truthfully speaking it’s a great feeling to know we are doing our part to help recycle when we do make the effort to recycle.  I suppose someday recycling will become a mainstream religion – to a very few it already is.  I often wonder what recycling would look like if people got paid for their recyclable materials?  After all for decades aluminum cans provided a source of additional funds to many and this resulted in very high recycling rates for aluminum cans.  It would sure make it a little more worth the effort to sort through and place materials in the proper bin.

The April 1st, 2013 issue of Plastics News had a great Viewpoint article by Don Loepp which addressed this very issue as a discussion point from the March Plastics Recycling Conference in New Orleans.

http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20130321/BLOG01/130329974/plastics-recycling-are-you-still-confused#

If we are going to have recycling be a big part of the environmental solution to the growing global plastic pollution issue we are going to have to get aggressive about our recycling efforts and recyclers will need to be a stakeholder in the bigger environmental mission as much as they are with the business focus of recycling.  All materials have the potential to be recycled, let involve state and federal programs to bring innovation to the market so that recyclers can accept all materials and have markets to sell those materials.

We’d love to hear what you think?

Plastics recycling: Are you still confused?