Friday, 5th february 2021 | Circular economy
Marco Arezio - Consulente materie plastiche - Why does Recycled Plastic have to Cost more than Virgin Plastic?

In a world where the exploitation of the earth's natural resources is bringing to its knees the environment we live in, where the exponential growth of waste is creating an intolerable situation, also aided by human behavior and where the recycling industry fails to absorb all the waste that society produces to transform it into raw materials, there are still people who consider the purchase of recycled raw material only possible if it is a profitable economic deal.

Don't be surprised, but that's what happens in many parts of the world, where even today the recycled plastic material is seen as an economic by-product of virgin raw materials, reducing the purchase to a mere fact of economic convenience.

That's why recycled plastic has to cost more than virgin plastic.

First of all, in general, it would be an ethical question to understand that the use of recycled plastic is necessary for the consumption of the waste that is produced every day by society and that without the recycling and use of this raw material, the waste problem would be much more pressing than it is now.

But suppose that ethics is a subjective mental exercise and that we are not touched by these doubts, but we must strive to consider how important it is to understand that, today , it should not be possible to choose between using virgin plastic instead of recycled one in the production of everyday items. Let's see some reasons:

• Recycled raw material, except for some specific sectors such as medical and a part of the food sector can normally be used as virgin raw materials, both for technical and aesthetic characteristics. So the phrase that is often heard "if it costs the same price or a little less I buy the virgin raw material because it is better" we must forget it.

• Faced with a growth in non-recycled waste, which today has reached 85-90% of plastic waste produced in the world on average, the sector of recycling suffers from the lack of many types of plastics to be processed, as the system of collection-recycling-production of raw material in many countries is disconnected or does not work as it should.

• The lack of some strategic products such as PVC waste for extrusion and molding or HDPE for the blow molding and extrusion sector, implies , in the face of the numbers referring to materials that are not recycled that we saw in the previous point, having to buy virgin raw material to make up for the lack of recycled one.

• Government policies of economic support to sectors, which in the past were considered strategic, such as the extraction and refining of fossil energy sources, are completely out of time and wrong, if we consider that the world of recycling does not receive the same state subsidies despite carrying out an ecological task and respecting the circular economy.

• Producing secondary raw material means not using natural resources, reducing the carbon footprint, avoiding pollution of the seas, land and air if waste are burned. Also preserve our health, as it has been shown that the food chain is negatively affected by this problem. That is, we eat what we throw away.

• The price of recycled polymers can and should cost more than virgin for technical and ethical reasons. Among the technical ones we consider that much more must be invested in the separate collection chain to increase the available input, that the mechanical selection and treatment of waste has a high cost that affects the cost of the polymer, which the sector suffers from competition from producers of virgin raw materials in terms of price and therefore the margins of the sector, which also perform a social work, are very low if not negative. The ethical reasons concern the concepts of the "green economy" in which the rules of the 4 Rs apply: reuse, recycling, saving and recovery . Better to use raw materials that derive from the recycling supply chain than virgin raw materials for all the reasons presented.

• We must consider a cost of civic education of the population on waste management and the consequences of human actions of throwing it into rivers. Educating people to a correct cultural approach to the environment is a necessary financial element, to be counted in the cost of recycled raw materials, an action that will lead to a cleaner world, to reduce the exploitation of natural resources for the production of virgin polymers. and to a greater availability of plastic to be recycled today lacking on international markets, for some types.

Automatic translation. We apologize for any inaccuracies. Original article in Italian.

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