back to article The world has a plastics shortage, and PC makers may be responding with a little greenwashing

The world has a shortage of plastics, and the ensuing challenges — rather than a desire to protect the planet — may well be the reason you’ve recently heard about recycled plastic working its way into laptops and other gadgetry. The Reg’s interest in recycled materials was piqued by a series of announcements that emerged …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The world has plenty of plastic

    It is just in the wrong place... like

    - the middle of the Ocean

    - in our drinking water

    In fact, there is literally nowhere (other than under an Antarctic glacier but probably not for much longer) on this planet that has not been invaded by this stuff.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: The world has plenty of plastic

      Going by the carrier bag full of waste plastic generated by shopping for a week's worth of food for two of us, the World has way too much plastic rather than enough.

      The same depackaging process produces almost as much carton.

      All this just to get the product from the producer to the shop and then the consumer.

      Obviously, when you actually use the goods there is another layer of plastic, carton or metal waste produced.

      One of the worst plastic offenders is expanded polystyrene as it is difficult and costly to recycle, there needs to be research to either improve the recycling process for it or find an economical altrrnative.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        Expanded polystyrene is easy enough to recycle, but it's bulky and lightweight so it's relatively expensive to transport to the recycling plants. Meanwhile, the recycling targets are usually set in tonnes or a percentage of waste by weight, so recycling something bulky and lightweight is not attractive compared to tin cans and glass bottles.

      2. HildyJ Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        It's not PC manufacturers that are greenwashing, it's petrochemical companies. Without restrictions on the type and quantity of plastics they are allowed to produce and taxes based on the recyclability of those plastics we will still have problems.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The world has plenty of plastic

      Unless I'm horribly mistaken, the USA and most western nations do NOT dump plastic into the oceans, at least not deliberately. This has been the case for DECADES as I understand it, starting with things like THIS.

      I wonder who DOES dump all of that plastic?

      If it's collecting in mats in the ocean on its own, so much the easier to dredge it. I wonder how much money you'd make recovering it... (or maybe just a worth-while charity that cleans the oceans up)

      In any case, I'm of the opinion that when recycling is free and easy, EVERYONE will do it. I put the blue can out every other week, and rarely need to put the other one out. The fast majority of household trash (for me) is of the 'recyclable' variety - cardboard, plastics, etc. and that all goes into the blue can.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        worth-while charity that cleans the oceans up

        No, the usual suspects, like Coca-Cola and other junk-producing Corps should be spending an agreed percentage of their profit on running a fleet of plastic collectors - ships for oceans obviously. They can then spend a bit more on properly converting the recovered waste to a usable material.

        Of course we need a global overseer to manage all this - maybe the United Nations could grow a pair and do this job?

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: the USA and most western nations do NOT dump plastic into the oceans

        Sorry Bob, but have you seen the sides of the roads and highways these last few decades ?

        Plastic bags full of trash are lying there. Sometimes it's just a plastic bag, or an empty plastic bottle.

        The truth is, people are pigs. They do not hesitate to throw away anything they decide they don't need any more, and many don't give a damn about where they are when they throw something away.

        My favorite example ? Smokers. When they're done with their cigarette, that butt will go flying, be it on the sidewalk or through a car window. Look for a trash can ? Are you kidding me ?

        So plastic has got into the oceans not through any government program, obviously, but through the sheer don't-give-a-damn of a large part of the population that goes to the beach and doesn't care what they leave behind when they decide to leave. Some might attempt to look for a trash can, but if it's more than 20 meters away, or if it's already overflowing, fuck it, they'll just leave their trash right there.

        Now, obviously, I'm not saying everyone does that, nor am I saying that that is happening on every single road or beach of the world. It has happened enough, though, so that there are several areas in our oceans that are choking with plastic residue.

        That would not have happened if everyone was mindful of putting their trash where it belongs : in the bin.

      3. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        I think a fair bit of ocean plastic is discarded/lost fishing gear (floats etc).

        Added to that there is stuff off ships (partly rubbish chucked overboard, partly lost deck cargo/ containers that have been washed over-board)

        Added to that, plastic tends to degrade very slowly, and while we might not have been dumping stuff in the ocean for decades, stuff that old can still be around

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: The world has plenty of plastic

          I think a fair bit of ocean plastic is discarded/lost fishing gear (floats etc).

          From this Grauniad report

          Lost and abandoned fishing gear which is deadly to marine life makes up the majority of large plastic pollution in the oceans, according to a report by Greenpeace.

          A recent study of the “great Pacific garbage patch”, an area of plastic accumulation in the north Pacific, estimated that it contained 42,000 tonnes of megaplastics, of which 86% was fishing nets.

          In a collection of 6 tonnes of garbage, an estimated 60% originated from industrial fisheries.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: The world has plenty of plastic

            >majority of large plastic pollution

            Note careful wording.

            So 10tons of large lumps of plastic, 6 of it is fishing gear, a million tons of micro-plastic injection mould feedstock isn't included. Headline = "problem is fishing gear"

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: The world has plenty of plastic

              The fact so much of it is fishing nets should make it relatively easy to remove from the ocean once it reaches the "garbage patch". We just need the will to do so.

              Yes, a lot of is "microplastics", but we don't have the technology to filter that out of seawater. Not that we should ignore microplastics, but those "large plastics" will eventually break down and become microplastics so removing them before they make that problem even larger should be a near term goal.

              We'll probably need years of research to figure out a good way to deal with the microplastics, but if we can leave less of that problem to deal with by taking care of the big stuff now why shouldn't we?

              Too often the perfect is the enemy of the good, and when someone points out something like how large a percentage of large plastics are fishing nets and thus should be easy to deal with we hear someone moaning about how that's only part of the problem - making it easier for those who want to ignore the problem entirely to get their way.

              And maybe the international community ought to consider passing laws to make plastic fishing nets illegal by some set date. Go back to older technologies for nets, or make them out of bioplastics that won't contribute the pollution problem.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: The world has plenty of plastic

                Is large plastics the problem?

                After every storm there are large (metre size) lumps of styrofoam floats, + fishing gear on the beaches, it looks bad but is easily picked up,

                How much damage does it do to the ecosystem?

                You don't see the microscopic bits of plastic inside the organisms.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The world has plenty of plastic

                  Yes, large plastics are a problem:

                  - they are eaten by marine animals and birds

                  - they are weakened by UV light and broken down by mechanical action to microplastics. These microplastics are eaten by creatures lower down in the food chain.

              2. Tim 49

                Re: The world has plenty of plastic

                Lost fishing nets are awful, especially the monofilament ones. In my younger days, I used to go wreck diving off the UK coast, mainly in the North Sea. Some of these wrecks had clumps of tangled netting, and the trapped, dead fish and crabs therein thus attracted further victims. There's no safe way for divers to remove this stuff in the low-viz, dark and tidal conditions, and monofilamnet is nearly invisible underwater, and practically impossble to cut.

                I've also dived from chartered fishing boats, where fishermen would routinely discard cut ends of polyprop rope overboard with never a backward glance. This was a quarter of a century ago, so perhaps attitudes have changed.

              3. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

                Re: The world has plenty of plastic

                The real problem with getting "any thing done" is you have large groups of "Environmental Activist" out there complaining about these problems but their "prescribed solution" is punitive measures against western economies in the US and Europe, instead of countries like S.E. Asia who are dumping tones of plastics into the oceans daily! Their motivation has little to do with the environment and more to do with their Marxist ideology!

                We have this same kind of issue here in the US. We have an entire political party screaming abut the fake crisis of climate change while children in the rust belt die by the 1000s of Leukemia cause be millions of tons of benzine in the ground water. Adults in this same area die young form Hodgkin's disease from heavy metals! Again, doing something about these problems does not advance their political goals.

          2. katrinab Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: The world has plenty of plastic

            I thought a lot of it was Tesco carrier bags, in places that are nowhere near a Tesco.

            Maybe not so much now, when you have to pay 20p for a bag.

            1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

              Re: The world has plenty of plastic

              As we see here, the unintended consequence of brain-dead activist. There was a concerted campaign back in the day to get rid of paper shopping bags. "Save the trees!" and all that! So all the stores went to plastic bags. Which you need more of to carry the same amount of stuff. Paper is easily recyclable, and degrades without environmental damage! Trees are renewable! Plastic is made from petroleum! (no all now but most of it back then).

              So now we have shopping bags littering the road side, floating through the air (pilots have seen them as high as 20,000 ft, dangerous if they get sucked into a engine), and littering the oceans.

              Also, bag makers are making them thinner and thinner so you need more bags and they break down from UK light into micro-plastics easier.

              I wise man once said, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions!"

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: The world has plenty of plastic

                I don't recall paper shopping bags ever being "a thing" in the UK, other than for certain light uses. Paper bags are pretty useless when wet, and rain isn't usually in short supply around here. They're also not ideal for carrying heavy items such as potatoes or bottles of milk, squash etc. Then again the flimsy plastic carriers are awful for this too.

                My mum always had a selection of her own bags when she walked to the greengrocer or the Co-Op or the newsagent, and as far back as I remember Tesco and the Co-Op had bags of various descriptions for sale. I don't remember (though I'm notoriously unreliable in this kind of thing) supermarkets around here giving free carrier bags away - plastic or otherwise - until the Carrefour "hypermarket" arrived in town in the 1970s. Those bags were sturdy, had handles conveniently on the "long" side and could be re-used multiple times.

                The "adult training centres" my dad worked at for 30-odd years also had a good business sewing and screenprinting hessian shopping bags, so we had rather a lot of the things :-)

                M.

      4. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        "In any case, I'm of the opinion that when recycling is free and easy, EVERYONE will do it."

        Sadly, we'll have to "dream on" about that…

        There are plenty of people who just don't care. Most high-density parts of my city have waste dumpsters in the streets, separate ones for recyclable materials, food waste, and non-recyclable waste. There are still far too many people who just throw all of their rubbish into the non-recyclable waste dumpsters, because they're just too lazy or uncaring to sort out their cardboard, cans and plastics. «sigh»

        You're right that everyone should do it, but not everyone is socially responsible or (even slightly) environmentally minded, sadly.

        1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

          Re: The world has plenty of plastic

          I think you missed the word "easy". My mother had 5 different bins to sort rubbish into, and for the average householder/dweller it is rubbish not "recyclable materials".

          At one point we were told by the local bin men that we'd thrown the wrong sort of plastic into the recycling bin. How should we know? Glass - first find your bottle bank. Then remember all glass is not equal. According to an article on the beeb glass as in drinking glass should not be disposed of with bottles - different melting point or something.

          Again I think you missed the word "easy".

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: The world has plenty of plastic

            There was an interesting study done recently - but I'm blowed if I can find the report now - into this. The essential message was that getting the householder to pre-sort the recycling (to some degree) made it easier to recycle more of it (for example, paper and card wouldn't be contaminated by liquid residue in bottles) so it was more economical for the waste collector, but that having to sort the waste, particularly where this was into three, four or more types, reduced the amount of recycling collected because people either couldn't be bothered and put more things in with the general waste, or just got the categories wrong.

            Conversely, collecting unsorted recycling vastly increased participation, but made sorting it more difficult, and increased contamination which can make some types of material impossible or uneconomic to recycle.

            Fifteen years ago, our local authority required items to be sorted into metals, paper/card, plastic and glass, each bagged separately for curbside collection - we had just moved from a different authority which had no curbside collection for recycling at all and had to take our items with us to the bins at the local supermarkets, so this was a big increase in convenience for us, even though our new neighbours thought it was a bit of a faff.

            A few years later our local authority built a massive recycling centre and gave everyone a single brown wheelie bin. It's much easier now and you hear fewer complaints, though I've only just found out that they have allowed the collection of "tin foil" for a couple of years - it used to be refused. No idea when they made that change, and they still don't take Tetrapaks.

            M.

      5. SotarrTheWizard
        Boffin

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        According to several studies I've seen, the top oceanic plastic polluters are China, Indonesia, and the Phillipines.

        Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/12211/the-countries-polluting-the-oceans-the-most/

        I've also seen reports that put Phillipine rivers as the worst individual offenders:

        https://ourworldindata.org/ocean-plastics

        And people wonder why I have a Filabot. I don't even need to buy plastic pellets to feed my 3-d printer, most months. . .

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: The world has plenty of plastic

          The problem with studies that make and publish opinions about who the top polluters are makes people who don't live in those places, complacent.

          I have mentioned before, when sailing in the Med' and other places, if you are doing the morning watch from 04:00 to 08:00, the sea is often like a mirror, super calm, at that time you can see beads of plastic floating on the surface every couple of inches.

          Multiply that up by the whole of the Med' let alone the rest of the oceans and how much plastic is on the surface alone? Then consider how much more has sunk and is slowly releasing a slew of unnatural chemical additives into the environment.

          Bob mentioned he doubts the US and the West dump plastics in the oceans but when you allow for the fact that many garden and potting soils for drainage contain styrofoam beads along with all the other microplastics that drain into the rivers and oceans, then we in the West are far from not guilty.

          Even the lint that is released from modern synthetic clothing amounts to significant amounts of unwanted plastic in the environment, then there is tyre and brake dust that accounts for over 550,000 tons of ocean micro plastic pollution each year according to the EPA. Presumably EPA figure are for the US only.

          We all have a lot to answer for.

          1. rcxb Silver badge

            Re: The world has plenty of plastic

            makes people who don't live in those places, complacent.

            There's a corollary, however, that people who engage in token actions are less likely to take substantive actions to actually resolve the problem.

            Reducing plastic pollution in the oceans can be most effectively done by spending money at the source of most of the plastic, not trying to prevent that last 1% from relative non-polluters.

            1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

              Re: The world has plenty of plastic

              100% agree. Stop the production of the unnecessary packaging don't just dump the problem on the consumer.

              Thinks - shoot members of the marketing department that should help to solve the problem.

            2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

              Re: The world has plenty of plastic

              But that is not what the loudest voices want to do! They advocate targeting western economies who are not the biggest polluters. Their motivation has little to do with the environment and more to do with their Marxist goals. Punishing the Philippines while allowing the west to continue along in capitalism will not hasten the arrival of their Marxist utopia!

      6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        "I wonder who DOES dump all of that plastic?"

        A lot of the current concern for plastics getting literally everywhere there is open water is the microplastics. Lots of that comes from make-up products and the waste water from washing machines (microscopic fragments of nylon, polyester etc break off when washing clothes) and goes straight through the treatment plants into the rivers and oceans.

      7. HereIAmJH

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        I wonder who DOES dump all of that plastic?

        It comes from a lot of places. Most storm sewers drain straight to waterways. So when someone tosses that water bottle out of the car window it gets washed into a river that flows into an ocean. Plastic bags are a huge problem, because animals get trapped in them, or they break apart and add to the micro plastic problem. There is just trash that is dumped in the ocean. Little regulation outside of territorial waters and it would be extremely hard to enforce. And then there is the fishing gear (ropes, nets, etc) that others have mentioned.

        If it's collecting in mats in the ocean on its own, so much the easier to dredge it.

        It's not just collecting in mats or patches in the ocean. It's also washing up on beaches.

        http://in-mocean.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/cropped-DJI_0174.jpg

      8. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: The world has plenty of plastic

        I wonder who DOES dump all of that plastic?

        As of 2019, "Asia accounts for 81% of global plastic inputs to the ocean." * They frequently lack the sanitation infrastructure the western world has, as well as environmental laws. Dumping trash into rivers, where it gets flushed out to sea, is not just an occasional happening but the standard method of disposal.

        * source: ourworldindata.org/ocean-plastics

  2. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Define 'plastic'

    Of course there are lots of different kinds of plastic. Are we talking about the sorts used to make cases? The specialist types used for friction surfaces or bearings? Paints and dyes? Fabric-type materials?

    Or all of them?

    Not forgetting, of course, that there has been an increased demand for plastics in general over the last 18 months as people and companies bought facemasks, hand sanitiser dispensers, the bottles of sanitiser themselves, those Perspex partitions you see at shops and suchlike.

    Even the syringes used to deliver vaccines are plastic.

    I suspect that even without disruptions, the supply of various plastics would have been tight this year.

    On the other hand, there was a story just last week that cardboard is in short supply, partly due to increased home deliveries (and people not recycling the packaging) and partly because high street shopping is down so it's more difficult to collect bulk cardboard for recycling. Some supermarkets have had to switch to plastic eggboxes!

    M.

    1. HereIAmJH

      Re: Define 'plastic'

      Having just disassembled one of my old server cases, the plastic on the front is ABS. 99% of the rest being sheet steel. Supposedly very easy to recycle once separated.

      Hopefully these shortages will drive demand for recycled plastics, encouraging more recycling. Last year my city considered stopping curbside recycling because demand for plastics and cardboard was so low that they were having to pay ever increasing prices to get rid of it. And even then, they couldn't be certain that it wasn't just ending up in a landfill.

      I made the point that we had to start somewhere, and separating recyclables at the source was the correct place to do it. Even if we had to pay to dispose, and they still ended up in a landfill. Because if we didn't do it, it was guaranteed to be trash. Paying for principals. But it also means the supply is there, we just need companies to start demanding it.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Define 'plastic'

      I've been using PLA to 3D print things. PLA has the advantage of being made from plants [as I recall] and is very biodegradable. Downside, it's biodegradable, meaning it'll fall apart after a while. But for testing designs, it works pretty well.

      An online search shows that there are PLA food containers and single-use water bottles out there. This is definitely a good step in the right direction, in my bombastic opinion.

      In the mean time there seem to be a lot of electronics recyclers. Occasionally they'll pick stuff up that you put out on the curb (at least in my area). So when the manufacturer cannot use PLA (due to lack of durability or some other reason) those can still be recycled through the usual places. And if it's convenient and easy, EVERYONE will recycle [more ore less]. In my bombastic opinion, at least.

      So for the purposes of plastic pollution of the ocean and recycling plastics to make ABS and other structural things, I will assume that PLA is not included in that particular definition.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Define 'plastic'

      Yes, neither the winter storm in Texas nor the Suez blockage were sufficient to disrupt supplies for long.

      You're right to point out the massive demand for plastics from new areas. Add to this the various economic stimuli and their unintended quantities causing a squeeze on key commodities, especially but not only in the building industry, and shortages and higher prices at the factory gate are inevitable.

      But, whatever the cause, if companies do finally start moving away from a direct dependency on oil then the that's a good thing.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Define 'plastic'

      Not forgetting, of course, that there has been an increased demand for plastics in general over the last 18 months as people and companies bought facemasks, hand sanitiser dispensers, the bottles of sanitiser themselves, those Perspex partitions you see at shops and suchlike.

      Facemasks seem to be becoming the new single-use bag. In my travels, I see lots of masks dumped on the pavements. Which could be a problem because AFAIK, they're plastic and have convenient loops to catch wildlife. Also see a fair number of dumped potion dispenser bottles.. But the biggest issue is along my probably 2 mile walk to the shops, there are no litter bins until the shopping precinct.

      So that's one reason why there's so much litter. Compare and contrast to somewhere like Singapore where there are bins everywhere. Plus of course pretty stiff penalties for anyone too lazy to walk a few meters to a bin.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Define 'plastic'

        Just regarding litter: some studies show that people tend to litter more if they expect bins, hence bins are often overflowing in popular locations, but tend to take their rubbish with them if they know they are none: this is somewhat culturally dependent but it's why they've been removed from some beauty spots as they also tend to attract vermin.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The new mantra is 'plastic = bad'

    And I strongly disagree with it. As long as the kinds of plastic used can be recycled or a biodegradable, I see no problem with those plastics.

    As often, oversimplifying the problem has one goal: making buy us new things to replace the old ones. And now it is to 'save the planet' (as if the planet could disappear in a near future), when the real question is about human kind survival.

    I saw for instance people replacing plastic cups with cups made in bamboo, because 'bamboo is natural' (as arsenic or curare by the way, but it's another topic). Sounds nice, isn't it? Slight problem: when bamboo cups contain hot liquids, they release formaldehyde which can be a health hazard. Ok, the less humans the less pollution, but it should be good to tell that to people honestly, shouldn't it?

    1. cipnt

      Re: The new mantra is 'plastic = bad'

      Plastics are good if used sensibly.

      But plastic is not a circular material – it can't be recycled indefinitely. For example recycled plastic can only take a small percentage of a new plastic bottle. Usually plastic is down-recycled into plastics that can no longer be recycled.

      If we can avoid plastics we definitely should!

  4. Snowy Silver badge
    Flame

    There something wrong with plastic

    As far as I can see the big problem with plastic is there is too many different types of plastic and there is only value in recycling a few of them.

    So when you put your plastic out to recycle you create a lot of "mixed" plastic which is costly to sort, which we used to solve by sending to China. Which stopped taking it as they do not want it and a lot of it was just plastic mixed up with rubbish.

    One thing we can do is stop making plastic jars and caps and replace them with glass and metal one, these are a lot easier to recycle and if we make a big effort maybe even reuse.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: There something wrong with plastic

      >stop making plastic jars and caps and replace them with glass and metal one

      Fossil fuel required to make 1 ton of plastic milk bags = a little bit more than 1 ton

      Fossil fuel required to make 100 tons of glass bottles (to hold same amount of milk) +

      fuel required to truck heavy bottles to store, and to consumers + fuel required for consumers to wash glass bottles + fuel required to drive bottles back to store and then to factory+ fuel required to wash and sanitise bottles.

      Our local store sells the organic milk in glass bottles and regular milk in plastic pouches, i'm guessing the glass bottles use 1000x the fossil fuel than the evil plastic.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: There something wrong with plastic

        a: a plastic bag is difficult to clean, therefore difficult to recycle and therefore often thrown away. On the right-side of the pond of course, our plastic milk containers are made from natural-colour HDPE, I believe, which is just about the most recyclable plastic around. Quick rinse, shove it in the recycling bin.

        b: the fuel doesn't have to be fossil (other than the oil required to make the plastic)

        c: the fuel doesn't have to be fossil to make the glass (though it often is I imagine)

        d: around here, glass bottles are usually doorstep-delivered (shops rarely have glass), collected from a central location, often the bottling plant, which these days usually deals in both glass and plastic

        e: no special trips are made to collect empties, either if delivered (empties are collected when fulls are delivered) or if Joe Bloggs is buying from the shop - he can take back the empties when he goes to buy more. Additional fuel used for transport is therefore minimal - most of the fuel goes in pushing the vehicle around.

        f: washing a bottle doesn't use much fuel, though I couldn't put a specific figure on it, and again it needn't be fossil (though in practice water is often heated by gas)

        g: HDPE bottles are rarely (yet?) made from purely recycled plastic; some amount of "virgin" plastic is always added as the plastic degrades

        h: glass bottles can be re-used many times, but WRAP reckons glass only beats HDPE plastic bottles after 20 uses. One story I saw elsewhere says the average glass bottle in the UK is reused 25 times, while another said 13 times. But of course...

        i: glass can be 100% recycled pretty much indefinitely, recycled glass is exactly as good as "new" glass - unlike recycled plastics - and recycling uses vastly less energy than making new glass. One thing the WRAP survey didn't seem to make clear was whether their "20 times" was for new glass or recycled. If the former, then it would be far lower for the latter.

        I'm sure there's a proper discussion of it out there somewhere. Maybe I'll look for it later, but right now the kettle has boiled and I need to get some milk - from a glass bottle - into a mug for a cuppa

        M.

  5. Adam Trickett
    Boffin

    Recycling is a bad sign...

    I'm not saying we shouldn't recycle but if it's economically viable to recycle that suggests that demand is outstripping supply.

    No ones throws gold rings away because everyone knows gold is valuable because we like it and it's rare, so we sell it and make a point of recycling it, gold demand exceeds supply. Most people throw paper or plastic things away because we know they are worthless and there is plenty more where they came from...! Tat supply exceeds demand.

    For decades our societies in the west have lived of an infinite growth, based on zero resource constraints, model for fuel and a bunch of core raw materials. When oil gets expensive things get painful and politicians get hot under the collar.

    Generally speaking if companies are recycling plastic then it means that it is something they are doing on cost grounds, or availability grounds. Companies mostly aren't charities and don't do something unless it's in their interest. If raw plastic is in short supply or is getting expensive then it's suggests something we've thought of limitless is becoming limited - and that has consequences....!

    Given that oil companies are pushing oil and gas into plastic production as we are currently travelling less, if there really is a plastic shortage does that mean we're hitting peak oil and gas? Not suggesting we're in anyway running out at the moment, but that demand is now exceeding supply.

    While I'd love to see better efforts at recycling and much better waste management, I fear the short term effect will simply be price inflation, which always annoys most people...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Recycling is a bad sign...

      "Generally speaking if companies are recycling plastic then it means that it is something they are doing on cost grounds, or availability grounds. Companies mostly aren't charities and don't do something unless it's in their interest."

      Also, you need to take into account "green grants" and tax breaks for recyclers. And the premium on "green" goods that sections of the population are prepared to pay. Also the public relations aspect for some companies, as per the article.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Recycling is a bad sign...

        Another motive for companies to use recycled materials is that doing so brings investment to the suppliers of recycled materials. This leads to more suppliers of material, recycled in addition to virgin. The advantage to the company is greater supply chain security in the future because of the multiple mature suppliers.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Unfortunately plastic recycling is in reality a myth invented by the oil industry to sell new plastic without people feeling guilty.

    Less than 10% of plastic waste actually gets recycled, and that is mostly because there are over 100 different types of plastics and mixed plastics can't be recycled until they are separated which costs money. So at the moment its just easier and cheaper to make new plastics and ship off the mixed plastics to countries with low paid workers like Vietnam for sorting. But even then it often just end up piling up there as only PET and HDPE plastic is worth anything there is virtually no value in the other plastics.

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