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Monday January 23, 2017
Posted: May 05, 2014

Plastic can’t take the heat: Part II

Under Current

Every rule has an exception. Such as the rule that detergent bottles contain 25% recycled material and little more. But, as often happens, this exception proves the rule.

The brand in the photo below offers a line of environmentally friendly household cleaning products, made from natural ingredients. They’re at the forefront of the green-cleaning world, and have a customer base willing to spend more (sometimes 3-4 times more) than on comparable traditional products, because of their ethos.

In addition to creating non-toxic -- or less toxic -- household cleaners, they are also major packaging innovators. They have created detergent bottles with high-recycled content and use them exclusively.

80% recycled plastic for the large bottle, and 100% recycled plastic for the smaller one.

In some ways, this highlights a success story for the re-use of HDPE #2 plastics. But it also proves just how hard & expensive plastic is to recycle. Customers of this brand expect to pay a premium. So the company can afford the research needed to create a strong bottle from weak re-melted plastic. And they can afford the extra cost of manufacturing such bottles. If anyone can, they can. But even they have their limits.

Their 25 oz dish detergent bottle is made of 100% recycled plastic. But for all their money, time, & effort, they still don’t market 100% recycled material in their larger laundry detergent bottles, the 100 oz standard laundry detergent size. They’re at best able to get that to 80%. Surely not for lack of trying.

It’s now 42 years since the first plastic recycling plant opened up. In the ensuing two generations we’ve created the personal computer, space shuttle, Internet, and iPhone. We’ve studied the depths of the ocean floor and sent satellites beyond the solar system. We’ve eradicated some diseases, created the CAT scan and MRI, and cloned sheep.

Yet we can’t make a commercially marketable one-gallon non-food bottle from 100% recycled plastic?

In this writer’s opinion, recycling plastic is not the answer to the crisis of litter & waste we’ve created. It can’t be. The answer is the simplest & hardest of them all: use less plastic. Do we have the courage to start doing that?

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