The upward trend to recycle plastics has caused an increased interest and involvement with plastics waste among recycling professionals. Organizations like the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) as well as local and federal governments are demanding more plastics be recycled instead of being shipped off to landfills.
This fairly new industry can be a boon – or a bust – for the recyclers and manufacturers, depending upon the accuracy of the plastic identification.
Plastic is a new revenue stream for scrap recyclers, who traditionally have made a living identifying, sorting and selling metals and alloys contained in car parts, old appliances, and other consumer goods. However, not all plastics are created equal.
Certain types of plastic grades – like polypropelyne, a plastic grade used in automotive batteries –are banned from landfills. There are many plastics that have been proven to be toxic.
In addition, the various plastic grades have different melting temperatures which can vary widely. For example, furniture and carpet melts at a temperature of 480 degrees F, while bottles and drainage pipes melt at 260 degrees. For a secondary plastic manufacturer, feeding the wrong plastic grade into the extrusion furnace can be detrimental. Furnace damage, production shut down, and the resulting operational loss can add up to millions of dollars. And the scrap yard’s reputation would be ruined.
When it comes to pricing, recycled plastics can fluctuate, depending upon variables like prime resin, unfilled, natural color, etc. An example from last year, taken from Plastics News, shows that the average price per pound for two different grades of resin could differ by almost 100%.
If scrap recyclers did not accurately sort, grade, and separate their plastics, they could lose a lot of money. As recyclers and scrap yards shift from a mono-material system to a complex multi-material system, they should make sure they invest in technologies that will ensure they stay in business.
What’s your metal to plastic ratio? Can you accurately grade your metal? And can you accurately grade your plastic? Comment below and let us know.