Recycle or reshape? Big ideas for plastic waste
Recycle or reshape? Big ideas for plastic waste

By on in Agency Life & Leadership, Tech & Trends

Recycle or reshape? Big ideas for plastic waste

Yes, I know. Earth Day was back in April. But this article is just as relevant today. After all, whether I just missed my April deadline or planned it this way, we need to treat every day as if it’s Earth Day. And on this Earth Day, today, I’m thinking about plastic.


Companies that rely on plastic love to promote recycling as the solution, so many people are not aware of the low percentage of collected plastic waste that is actually recycled, or its impact.


I’m sorry to tell you, but only about 14% of global plastic waste is collected for recycling—and only about 9% is actually recycled. Slightly more is incinerated to create energy, leaving the vast majority of plastic waste ending up in landfills and oceans. It continues to get worse, with industry planning to triple plastic production by 2050. Right now, there are massive plastic waste islands floating in our oceans—Vox has ranked the world’s oceans by millions of pounds of trash, but no one comes out looking good.




Why isn’t plastic being recycled?

  1. Lack of infrastructure: Many regions—globally and in the United States—do not have the infrastructure to collect and process plastic waste. Australia’s sole soft plastics recycler went under last year, and now the country is considering shipping a four-year recycling backlog to Texas. And then what?
  2. High costs: It is more expensive to recycle plastic than it is to produce new plastic.
  3. Contamination: Much of the plastic collected isn’t sorted properly for recycling.
  4. Low governmental support: Due to the reasons above, governing bodies don’t back the programs that do exist.
  5. Misleading messaging: Companies that rely on plastic love to promote recycling as the solution, so many people are not aware of the low percentage of collected plastic waste that is actually recycled, or its impact—from beginning its life as fossil fuels to destroying habitats and polluting waterways—on the environment.


Creative solutions on the horizon

All that aside, there are companies finding innovative ways to recycle plastics that reduce costs and expand the types of plastics that can be reused.

One that has caught my attention is ByFusion, which was my inspiration to write this post. I read about ByFusion in Fast Company, where the authors introduced the firm’s eco-friendly ByBlock building materials. Looking a lot like giant Legos, these modular building blocks are strong, durable and weather-resistant, and can be used for constructing just about anything, from retaining walls to housing. And they weigh less (so they’re more eco-friendly to transport) and reduce C02 emissions compared to concrete blocks. No surprise, they can even earn your building LEED credits.


plastic blocks


What inspired me about the ByFusion process is the way it transcends the limits of existing recycling efforts that apply to only limited types of plastic. Plastic bags, for instance, cannot be traditionally recycled but ByFusion can give them new life. At the end of the day, ByFusion building materials offer an improved way to repurpose plastic as well as provide a sustainable, cost-effective and perhaps even profitable new building material.

I asked my niece, a manager at one of the largest waste management companies in the area, about recycling at her company. Turns out, they do limited sorting at their facilities, then ship materials three hours by truck to be further sorted, cleaned and recycled. They spend about $10,000 a month. My quick math suggests that bringing in ByFusion block-making machines could pay for itself in roughly eight years and provide a new income stream (reducing the payback period far further). Of course, the facility would have to create the processes and facilities to sell these new materials to buyers, or contract with a third party willing to provide this service, but at the end of the day, RePlast could be a viable solution to several problems.


What can you and I do?

Reduce still comes first—we need to get serious about decreasing our single-use plastics habit. Then comes reuse—what solutions can you imagine to keep environment-clogging items out of land (and water) fills? After all, even when it works, recycling should be the distant last choice.

Got a big idea you want to share with the world? Let FATFREE help you get the word out. Whether it’s a planet-changer or just a great marketing opportunity, we’re here to help.