Recycling Helps Give Plastics New Life
By Nestor de Mattos, North America Commercial Vice President, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics
On my weekly visit to the grocery store, I feel a sense of pride seeing more organizations and businesses making changes to make sustainability a priority. Quite literally, many stores have a spot where customers can recycle their plastic bags packages and other materials we typically toss out. While it takes everyone – from businesses to local governments – to make positive changes for our environment, it's empowering to know that as an individual, I too, can contribute to a more sustainable future by properly recycling plastic.
More than eight-in-ten Americans believe the world is facing a plastic and packaging crisis. Recycling is top of mind as people look to reduce their environmental impact, but limited recycling availability in some areas, false assumptions about plastics, and lack of clarity around the process can get in the way. On and around America Recycles Day, Dow’s Rediscover Recycling campaign aims to cut through confusion, spotlight promising innovations and offer everyday tips for promoting a circular economy and a low-carbon future.
How can we encourage recycling through collaboration?
One of the challenges to recycling in the US is lack understanding for proper recycling. The methods and the materials collected can vary by geography, causing confusion. It is not enough to explain why recycling is important. We must clearly communicate how to recycle properly. Dow has taken action through collaboration in packaging design, recycling program, collection and recycled content, including:
- Collaborating with several brands to design for recyclability. For example, Dow and Kellogg’s® redesigned the formerly hard to recycle package for Kashi’s Bear Naked® granola. The new package is a resealable stand-up pouches that are recyclable at store drop-off locations.
- Working with The Recycling Partnership, Dow’s customer Rehrig and others provided the City of Baltimore nearly 200,000 recycling bins, making this the largest effort to modernize recycling collection in the country. These new carts are expected to provide approximately 30 million new pounds of plastics for recycling over the next 10 years.
- Developing the Hefty® Energy Bag Program®, a curbside collection system that keeps hard-to-recycle plastics out of our landfills and environment. Common household products such as foam containers and flexible plastic food packaging are not widely accepted in recycling bins, but with the Hefty® Energy Bag Program® these items can be kept out of the landfill.
How is recycled plastic material used?
Recycled materials can be used in a variety of products. In addition to new packaging, recycled plastic is also used in clothing, carpeting, wood plastic composite lumber and as an additive to improve asphalt.
- Recently, Dow collaborated with Meijer to use nearly 12,500 pounds of recycled material that was collected at store drop off recycling and used that material to improve a Meijer parking lot using recycled polymer modified asphalt (RPMA) technology. All plastic used for this project was collected through Meijer’s Store Drop-off system.
- Recycled materials can be used by a variety of products. Sometimes they need a little help to make sure the products perform optimally. In 2020, our VORAMER™ polyurethane binders enabled 90 million pounds of post-consumer rubber scraps to be recycled into running tracks, playground safety surfaces and sports flooring.
- Last year, we introduced the first post-consumer recycled (PCR)-rich resin for shrink film in North America. This is a similar product to the overwrap on water bottles and warehouse packaging. The recycled plastic resin expands Dow’s circular technology portfolio by offering the ability to create shrink film with up to 40% PCR content.
But how can individuals contribute to a circular economy through proper recycling?
Transitioning from a linear way of using materials to a circular way can seem complicated. That’s why communities, nonprofits, and companies are all working together to make it easier. In addition, there are things individuals can do to make small changes that can make a big impact.
Look for the How2Recycle label on packaging to help you recycle correctly. Learning more about labels can eliminate confusion and support proper recycling, including curbside recycling and in-store drop offs.
Recycle right. There are many benefits of recycling properly. When we recycle the right things in the right place, we are keeping material out of the landfill and making sure we can use resources efficiently.
Use your purchasing power. From clothing to consumer goods to products in packaging using recycled material, make the change to buy recyclable products when possible. You can find more recycled products at recyclemoreplastic.org.
Learn more about recycling efforts across the country and how you can get involved here.