President, XCaliber Associates, Inc.
Abstract: Despite the high consumer profile and decades of effort, cost-effective recycling of most plastics is difficult if not impossible since recycled plastics at the end-reuser level must be price-competitive relative to virgin plastics for recycling to be self-sustainable long-term. Manu-facturers cannot tolerate more than 1-2 cents premium in costs for their raw materials, many of which have been developed to match very specific performance requirements. With very few exceptions, it is extremely difficult to hit these specific performance targets with recycled plastics, especially post-consumer plastics, at the required price-point targets. The cost of sufficient separation of typical mixed plastic streams even using the latest technologies is the price killer. That_s why the easily consumer-separated No. 1 PET and No. 2 HDPE bottles are among the few exceptions. Besides their diversity, plastic products and synthetic textiles are also discarded in forms that prevent or seriously impede their recyclability, such as multi-component construction, usage history with nonhazardous but still potentially contaminated plastic healthcare wastes, food wastes, cleaning and maintenance residues, etc.