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Once is Not Enough?

Posted November 28, 2010 7:37 AM

Watchdogs are upset following a Canadian exposé that over 80% of plastic waste collected in Winnipeg is sent overseas to be used for non-recyclable products. The materials are shipped to China and converted into products that can't be recycled again. Are Canadians justified in feeling "betrayed" by the recycling industry?

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Guru

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#1

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/28/2010 10:38 PM

Hi to all,

First, disregarding that I live in China, I wonder how many times something should be or could be recyclable. Every generation of recycling does benefit, and I wonder where are the practical limits. I deal a lot in plastic components, injection-molded, thermoformed, blow-molded and rotational-molded, etc. For all of these materials, there are some very small and strict limits as to what can and can't be done without serious degradation in the original performance of the material. There is one except of which I am aware, wherein the material is 100% recyclable for five generations ... then it drops to zero. Of course, PE bottles become carpeting, tires become kid's playground surfaces, and so on ... but, regardless of the hearts and minds of those wishing to improve our 'foot print' via recycling, there are indeed limits. From the OP, the issue is that the material is being made into products that "can't be recycled again" ... and most certainly, those items are being exported to the rest of the world. Does anyone have any idea what these products are?

Secondly, and from observations here, I can say there is a huge effort to recycle and conserve in process, albeit with limited effects. Still, it is a beginning. Almost every community in the larger cities have voluntary recycling organized, and everywhere there is the 'free enterprise' efforts to recycle (that is a hard one to explain without first-hand experience), but that that has been going on for the past decade or more. Also, today, it is almost impossible to get a PE "plastic" bag for 'free' ... most now carry their own 'shopping bags', and if you do need a bag when you shop, it will cost you a modest amount. One can criticize as they wish, but there are few "trash trucks" in a city of more than 2 million where I live, because the process of handling the 'waste' is well organized.

Kind regards ...

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/28/2010 11:13 PM

DcaD -- An especially good answer you have provided.

Given your current working connections with plastics perhaps could you briefly elaborate on which types and physical forms of plastics are most often recycled at least once in the geographic area with which you are familiar?

Also which among frequently encountered consumer product applications are the least able to be successfully recycled with present technology?

For the purpose of comparisons I'd suggest treating the use of plastics as a fuel as a separate category.

thanks, Ed Weldon

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 12:36 AM

Hello Ed,

Thanks for your accolades, but I should preface all I can offer as only being tangentially involved. Although I have several decades of experience with the processing and manufacturing of plastic parts, I am neither chemist nor chemical engineer. Most of the materials we encounter are ABS, PS, PC, PE, Nylon(tm) and various blends. All the brands of these base materials (GE, Bayer, and others) offer guidelines for re-grind, which is the process by which the scrap materials (runners, flash, and other trim) can be re-integrated into the virgin materials. While not exact, these are in the 10% range by weight, meaning if you have xxx kg of virgin material, you can mix the recommended percentage of re-grind material without seriously affecting the intended material properties. Of course, if the 'dross' is less than 10% per shot, you can re-integrate the re-grind completely. If it is more, there will be some scrap that has to go "elsewhere".

For all who are in the process of manufacturing pieces and parts from raw plastic material, I would hazard to guess that everyone recycles to the maximum limits, for sheer economic reasons.

For most, except the extremely large fabricators, scrap material is sold to third-party salvage operations who provide the re-grind services and supply re-grind pellets to the fabricators.

The exception I spoke of, the one that I am familiar with, is a trademarked material, Santoprene(tm) which is a Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), and is often the "rubber" part on everything from shaving razor handles and toothbrush handles, to many "tactile" parts on all sorts of consumer products. The material is used in sheet form for thermoforming as well as pellets for injection-molding. It is the one I know of that can be 100% recycled for a number of generations, but there may be others.

Again, on the raw engineering side of plastics, it is not my skill, so I hope this little bit of general information helps some.

Kind regards ...

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 10:55 AM

DcaD -- Your comment about regrinds offers good insight into why some plastic products can have quality issues late in the product life. As I think about this I begin to see why there is such frequent fracturing of plastic parts in consumer products. A mold that is wearing out and starting to produce greater quantities of rejects will tempt the unscrupulous manufacturer into cheating the 10% or whatever limit on regrinds to maintain his margins. The result is brittle properties in the final product that result in breakage at high stress points. Common spring loaded kitchen bag clips and items with snap fit closures are typical examples. This condition is almost impossible to detect in a product that is still intact when shipped.

The other interesting point of information regards Santoprene. It would seem that this material is highly tolerant of variations in molding temperature. This is turn suggests that Santoprene may be a good material for the amateur working in a home workshop to experiment with crude aluminum compression molds and a hot plate to make things like special sealing washers or vibration isolation mounts.

Thank you for sharing this info. ........Ed Weldon

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 9:55 PM

In my "early years", I was buying a perforated sheet plastic part from a company in Chicago. One shipment, the parts, with just the slightest impact almost literally turned to dust ... no kidding. Found out, just as you said, the manufacturer was cheating, but in his case, he was (not knowing the consequences) using almost 100% re-grind .

One of the constant dangers of this poorer economy is that it DOES push everyone to cheat. Assemblers such as us are almost helpless to "see" any subtle changes ... "if it walks like a duck ..." and so forth. It pushes us to do a lot more testing at the Receiving Inspection, and this extends schedules and causes more scrap ... still, it's better than having products returned from the field.

BTW, if you want to learn more about Santoprene(tm), you can 'google' it ... I believe the company to whom the material belongs is Advanced Elastomers, but I am not sure.

Kind regards ...

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 6:23 AM

Hi DCad,

Point is when material shipped is from Canada with specific instructions "Not to be recycled" then it becomes breach of trust if it is recycled. I hope you will agree with me. May be it is done with good intension of to save cost of the product and energy saving.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 8:12 AM

Hi,

I must admit that I misread the OP, but now that I re-read it, I am more confused ... first it says ...

"... sent overseas to be used for non-recyclable products."

Then it says ...

"The materials are shipped to China and converted into products that can't be recycled again."

SO, is the intention to have the 'next generation' of products from this material to be recyclable, or not?

Kind regards ...

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Anonymous Poster
#8
In reply to #5

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 11:55 AM

Hi Suresh,

You are perfectly right about specific garbage Canadian - I am Canadian too, companies send out of the country because the Canadian population doesn't allow landfills for this type of garbage. The is an easy way to send somewhere, saying get "out of here" and in plus by specifying that is "not for recycling" but the main issue is to get out of the country. If you send your garbage to someone and somewhere else, really, could you tell to the someone that she/he can use one way, the receiver way? Please, you in India as in China, you have the right to do what you want to do with our garbage, isn't it? If we get the recycled plastics back and meet our legislations, thanks for the new plastic in Canada. If is not good for us, don't send here, and thanks again.

In China and I was there, they pick up garbage and recycle the most of it. In Canada, we pick-up everything together and dispose it somewhere. Sorry for the "BLUE BOXES", it's working so so. The major part of plastic, mainly bags, goes to landfills, Gil.

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 12:35 PM

So has anybody actually had success recycling plastic bags into at least a second cycle of use at a reasonable commercial level?

I'm retired so I have a bit more time to deal with recycling household trash. I collect all plastic bags and film packaging material in a single larger plastic bag for each week's garbage pickup. The "container" is usually one of the somewhat higher quality shopping bags given away with groceries from more upscale retailers than the typical supermarket or dollar store. The really cheap bags tear too easily and spill their contents. When full I compress the bag and tie the two handles together in a square knot to close the opening. The resulting "package" is about the size and "cushiness" one would want in a small emergency headrest pillow. It goes into the recycling bin. Where it goes in the recyclable sorting process is a mystery to me; but I suspect it is direct to the landfill.

Now I might retain these "pillows" to use as packaging box filler cushions If I were shipping out much bulky stuff. But I don't do much of that. Also worth noting is that I tend to wash and air dry dirty plastic bags before they go into the cushions. Everything I put in the recycling bins is cleaned of surface residues. That's just me and my dislike for handling smelly, sticky garbage. Not particlularly practical for most folks. But then ..............

Ed Weldon

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Anonymous Poster
#14
In reply to #10

Re: Once is Not Enough?

12/02/2010 12:29 PM

Hi Ed,

Recycling? Probaly "yes" but the economy and mainly the profitability is not present, so we let another people to do it. We are in the "Global Village" so let activate everyone in it. I used 5 plastic bags, not more than 5 during last year. I carry in my pocket 2 all the time and use them when I need. Honestly I don't have anyone who gets them when I want to dispose them around me or I am ignorant, Gil.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Once is Not Enough?

12/02/2010 10:46 PM

Gil -- Allow me to present my own experience. I may not be a typical consumer since my buying habits tend toward lot buys at big box stores and many minor purchases shipped in to my rural address by USPS or other package delivery services.

My garbage is collected weekly from a regular garbage bin, a recyclable bin and a green waste bin. Bottles, cans and plastic containers go in the recyclable bin along with occasional other plastic and metal scrap. But plastic film packaging material which is essentially thin in the area of less than 0.1mm thickness gets collected in a reasonably robust plastic bag, often an better quality free plastic shopping bag. Each week prior to garbage pick up I compress this bag and tie off the handles. I mentioned this process in a previous post. So allow me to describe the contents of this bag. There are a few low grade shopping bags, perhaps 2 or 4 that go in there. But the bulk of the plastic film in that bag is from individual product packaging largely from one or another type of processed food rather and blister pack packaging for hardware products rather than shopping bags. There is a significant component of plastic bubble wrap from shipping packaging, suitably collapsed, in my plastic film mix. Indeed, I have trouble obtaining 52 good quality shopping bags for my particular "mission" each year.

My conclusion: The obvious fact of the mix of plastics polluting our ocean gyres may not be accurately characteristic of the overall volume of plastic material that motivates our environmental concerns. This needs to be studied objectively before we go off half cocked into a quick and easy "solution" to the problem.

I suppose for people like me a suitable sized recycling bag for plastic film could be a saleable product. I can visualize the utility of these little "pillows" as cushions for shipping packages provided the assembler of such pillows is reasonably fastidious about insuring the plastic with food packaging origins is clean and odor free.

OK, it's a lousy business plan. But it may not be a half bad idea if you are selling a lot of stuff on ebay and can figure out how to get the kids in the neighborhood to make shipping cushions good enough for you to pay real money for them rather than buy Styrofoam flopack "peanuts" at $3.00 a cubic foot.

Ed Weldon

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Guru

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/30/2010 1:33 PM

I think major problem is plastic bags disposal around the world. Best way would be to stop mfg. plastic bags. In olden days we never had plastic bags used for shopping. My parents would carry with them a cotton or jute bags for shopping. Now a days we get fancy plastic bags with multicoloured printed messages from the mall or the brand you have have purchased. In process you become mini mobile hoarding for the seller. It is free service rendered by us. So better to stop using plastic bags and save the environment.

Suresh Sharma.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/30/2010 9:10 PM

Hi,

I am not sure, but I have heard the largest culprit is not plastic bags, but plastic water bottles, both by material volume, and number of "offenses".

From what I see in North America and in China, while plastic bags are still available, they are discouraged by the retailer ... no longer free, but there is a cost. It is very common to see shoppers with their own re-usable bags. We have ours . Bottom line, although it is not 100%, there are viable alternatives.

BUT, with the craze to buy bottled water (I say 'craze', because I never drink bottled water), there are huge numbers of bottles discarded. I can remember (yes, I am that old) when everything came in glass bottles, and bottles were often refunded. Not for everything but especially for beverages, it was easy for the bottling companies to sanitize and reuse bottles. Then the craze for "disposable" packaging ... and, yes, we even advertised it that way. Now, we have a generation or two of the population who is trained to just "use and throw away". Bottom line for this problem is, I don't think there is any quick solution, either socially or otherwise.

Kind regards ...

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#3

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/28/2010 11:44 PM

Worst to it is that China is dumping these environmental unfriendly toxic plastic products in other countries like India.

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Prof. (Dr.) Shyam, Managing Director for Sensors Technology Private Limited. Gwalior, MP474001, India.
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Anonymous Poster
#9
In reply to #3

Re: Once is Not Enough?

11/29/2010 12:01 PM

Hi Shyam,

It worth better to specify what plastic you want from any country for your needs at place of complaining. I buy what I choose after specification from someone else but accepted. Again, this is business and you have to watch what you get and need to pay.

If you know your business, you buy what you want or need, and in consequence pay in the same order, Gil.

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#15
In reply to #9

Re: Once is Not Enough?

12/02/2010 1:09 PM

Third quality toys and lots of cheap material comes into India as unchecked delivery into junk road side market. It is all over India, very unhygienic and poisonous.

I am not talking about proper channel purchases where quality can be defined and tested. General public in most of the world is uneducated about reusable plastic and toxic plastics. India and perhaps less developed countries with lots of poor people are badly affected.

Bad toys, bad plastic bottles, bad plastic chairs, tables, doors, plastic sheets, water storage tanks, food packaging cans, oil packaging can, bad general packaging material and lot more. It is a serious dirt all over.

There is a code for plastic type and its re-usability and perhaps toxic level. However, most of cheap material does not have such markings and it does not come through proper channels to be checked out for quality.

Our concern have increased many folds now with cheap material entry from China. There are poor quality products manufacturers in India but dumping from out side is far exceeding to what they can do. Indian manufacturers can be traced down and they can be punished but material coming from China can not be controlled unless Government initiate serious action against intruders. I think Government of India has too much soft corner for those entering from North and east. India does not get any such material from Pakistan. We get only terrorism from them and few deaths, but this plastic dirt is causing millions very sick and number is steeply increasing in cancer hospitals.

India China shared great cultural relationship for thousands of years, but just few years now have made me feel completely strained feelings that may burst out any time. I home some sense of understanding will develop soon and both countries will minimize exported plastic dirt and toxic food.

.

.

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