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Regrind: What's the whole story?

Apr 12, 2024Apr 12, 2024

I have been a reader and fan of Plastics News for many years. In a previous life I was the director of a large injection molding operation for one of the major toy companies. We ran more than 100 machines from 50 to 1,500 tons. We were involved with just about every material that could be injection molded, you name it.

One issue that we were constantly aware of — and invested a lot of time and energy in — was management/reprocessing of regrind. One small bucket of nylon in a 1,000-pound gaylord of reground styrene rendered the styrene pure, absolute scrap. To the trash.

In reading your ongoing articles on the recycling issue and the most quoted statistic of less than 10 percent of recycled plastic ever finding its way back into useful product production, I never hear mentioned the particulars of how the refuse from my "recycle" barrel at home actually gets put back into production.

For example, the ubiquitous PET water bottle that we all have in our possession at all times gets discarded to the recycle barrel and then forgotten. We have done our duty and recycled that plastic and the little triangular chasing arrows on the bottom of the bottle confirms that.

That bottle is composed of at least three unrelated thermoplastic materials. I assume it's PET, polyethylene and the vinyl label. Clearly not compatible with each other. I see tons and tons of these bottles compressed into gaylord-size cubes going up the freeway on large semis frequently. What happens to that material, those bottles composed of three disparate materials, still all intact in those compressed bundles? Parking lot bumpers, outdoor patio railings, flowerpots? Is that the less than 10 percent recycled we hear about?

The point of all this is that I would like to see your experts deal with this subject head-on, covering the issues I have raised above. Your recent issue spoke of the disastrous situation of recycling, giving it a half page on Page 7. [Feb. 13, "Study finds 'deeply troubling' statistics on plastic waste."] I believe that this should be front-page news with red-letter headlines. Don't tiptoe around the subject.

What are we not doing? What could we do here at home to improve the situation? What does Germany do to obtain a 30-plus percent recycling rate? Why can't we make the bottles from one single material? What is so prohibitive about reusing bottles and containers now known as "single use"? What is being done to further this idea? How do we separate the different types of polymers in a reprocessing facility? One Barbie Dream House with beds, RV, kitchen, bathroom, etc., contains minimum 10 or 12 different, incompatible polymers. Sometimes even thermosets.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

Thank you for your attention and the many years I have enjoyed Plastics News.

John PornerBonita, Calif.

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