Do we need to use so much virgin plastic?

By March 6, 2019Opinions

In this blog I want to talk briefly about the use of virgin plastic, where I think “we” go wrong and ask the question “Do we need to use so much virgin plastic?”

I am very passionate about waste and recycling. Whenever someone new engages me in conversation around the subject, they soon learn this.  Recycling is very important and I am pleased to be able to read articles on a daily basis in the trade press and online of some very significant  recycling successes in both the UK and globally.

However, I have always been very concerned that the grass root issue is not being addressed. To me – if we keep manufacturing unnecessary plastic products from virgin polymer, then we cannot hope to reverse the catastrophic affects of our plastic usage.

And let me be clear – I am not anti plastic. It is a great material and has an important part in many aspects of our lives. However, there are also many other aspects where plastic is used unwisely.

I was at an exhibition recently and happened upon the stand of a design firm. There was no-one else on the stand so I thought I’d go and ask the question “Do you consider end-of-life recyclability in your designs?” Without as much as a beat I was told “No”. I couldn’t leave it at that and so suggested that surely they had a moral obligation to do so – and I was so very disappointed with the response!

From my own experience I know full well that many products could be manufactured with, at least an element of, recycled material. And yet the number of manufacturers that do so is tiny. And, of course, the numbers of their customers that request or demand it are also tiny.

Manufacturing with an element of recycled material can certainly have more challenges – but as we all know challenges are rarely insurmountable. However, with no real pressure for manufacturers to change their working practices.. most of them continue to work with 100% virgin plastic.

OK – so there is the new proposed legislation that all packaging in the UK must have at least 30% recycled content. So – it’s a step in the right direction, but only a small one. That still leaves 70% virgin plastic! Why not insist upon 70% recycled content? Why not 100%? And why on earth is this just for packaging? Think how many plastic products there are around you as you read this. I bet a great many of them could be manufactured from a virgin / recycle mix, if not exclusively from recycled plastic.

I’m afraid that I do not know a solution – I just see the problem. I am but a mere individual and I continue doing what I do to help minimise my environmental impact  and our business produces the best regrinds possible for use back in manufacturing http://agsplasticgranulation.co.uk/waste-plastic-granulation/. I just wish those with some power and clout would take up the mantle and do more to stop us producing so many plastic products made unnecessarily with virgin polymers.