The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

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The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby aardvark_admin » Wed Jun 01, 2022 7:44 am

This column is archived at: https://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2022/0601.shtml

So plastic cycling does not work and will never work (economically?).

If this is true (and the bonafides of the authors of that piece seem to suggest they might know what they're talking about), what should we do with all our plastic waste?

Are we simply deluding ourselves by collecting up all that used plastic on the premise that it will actually be recycled in an economically viable and practical way?

Might it be worth simply storing it safely for the day when we no longer have enough oil to make new plastics and thus recycling, regardless of the complexities and costs, is our only option?

Or do we burn it and at least extract a bit of power, whilst ridding ourselves of the growing pollution issue that waste plastic is creating?

Your thoughts, your ideas, your suggestions please.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jun 01, 2022 9:32 am

The slogan is "Reduce, reuse, recycle". The idea being you are meant to try to do things in that order. Recycling is the last step after the previous two have been exhausted. Reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging. How many items do you see sold in a hard plastic shell which don't need to? We really should be leaning on the manufacturers to package things in a more sustainable way. You can't just rely on market forces or consumer action to do it. That would require consumers to have an actual choice when often all the products are packaged in a similar way.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby joeseph » Wed Jun 01, 2022 10:29 am

Malcolm wrote:How many items do you see sold in a hard plastic shell which don't need to?


since the whole covid thing started, I would say we're using more plastic than usual - our local supermarket essentially closed the deli, and put out plastic-wrapped trays of meat portions.
They've opened the deli again since, but still put out plastic-wrapped trays of portions also (guess some folks prefer just to pick stuff up than wait in line for a human to select their portions)
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby rossnixon » Wed Jun 01, 2022 10:53 am

Burn it to create electricity. Most toxic gases will be broken down if the temperature is high enough.

Don't worry about running out of oil. We won't. Most oil comes from hydrocarbons in the Earth's mantle. Not many people know this yet.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby hagfish » Wed Jun 01, 2022 11:48 am

Recycling is like biofuel or EVs or the ETS - a sop to the bluegreens, and a way kicking reality down the road for one more quarter.
rossnixon wrote:Most oil comes from hydrocarbons in the Earth's mantle

How embarrassing.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby rossnixon » Wed Jun 01, 2022 12:30 pm

Last edited by rossnixon on Wed Jun 01, 2022 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby Wetherman » Wed Jun 01, 2022 12:47 pm

There are other oils we can make into plastics (polymers). There's all the palm oil that Cadbury is no longer using (yea right)... eucalyptus, patchouli, manuka factor (tea tree)
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby hagfish » Wed Jun 01, 2022 1:47 pm


The wikipedia article is peppered with terms like 'discredited' and 'unlikely' and 'rejected', but it's an interesting thought experiment. If the theory's predictions actually panned out, I expect oil companies would have been interested. The biogenic origin of fossil fuel seems much more compelling. Coal seams can actually contain fossilised trees.
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby rossnixon » Wed Jun 01, 2022 10:54 pm

aardvark_admin wrote:This column is archived at: https://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2022/0601.shtml

So plastic cycling does not work and will never work (economically?).


Turn it into graphene, But how much graphene would actually be useful, I don't know.
https://crev.info/2022/05/chemist-saves-planet/
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Re: The plastic recycling myth (1 Jun, 2022)

Postby Kiwiiano » Wed Jun 01, 2022 11:02 pm

aardvark_admin wrote:This column is archived at: https://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2022/0601.shtm
Might it be worth simply storing it safely for the day when we no longer have enough oil to make new plastics and thus recycling, regardless of the complexities and costs, is our only option?

Unfortunately, the wheels feel off your argument about here. We can never consume all of the Earth's stored hydrocarbons because before we have done so, we would have rendered the planet unable to sustain civilization if not humanity & most creatures above cockroaches.

We could do a lot better at recycling plastics but it would require politicians focused on their obituaries rather than the next elections. Requiring all plastics (& there are thousands of them) to have unique colours or at least better ways of identifying them than bloody stupid embossed triangles & numbers that are invariably so badly moulded they're hard or even impossible to read.

Of course there's also the HUGE problem of the micro & nano plastics already released into the biosphere. Oceans are awash with them, soils so contaminated they are rapidly reaching levels of toxicity that will preclude them from being used to grow food.
See https://www.monbiot.com/2022/05/29/muckraking-journalism/
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