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Love the Earth? Embrace Plastic

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Love the Earth? Embrace Plastic

By Andrew Tolve, Ode Magazine

This is part 1 of 2 in a series: Fantastic Plastic.

The final destination for most cars—after they’ve served their time in a scrapyard, that is—is a 10,000-horsepower shredding machine that, in about 60 seconds, rips them into fist-size chunks of stuff. This material is then whisked away on a conveyer belt and sorted for recycling. Steel, copper, brass, and aluminum are all separated and re-used.

But petroleum-based plastic—and there’s a lot of it in cars—presents a problem. Plastics range greatly in type and grade and therefore can’t be recycled together. That’s why they’re typically bundled together with other tough-to-recycle material (rubber, wood, fabrics, foam) and shuttled off to landfills or burned in incinerators.

Mike Biddle, president and co-founder of MBA Polymers, thinks that’s unacceptable.

“Burning [plastic] is obviously not the best thing to do for the environment and reburying it is a waste of a natural resource,” Biddle says. “Why pump oil out of the ground when we’ve already put so much energy into making these materials? Let’s just use them again.”

Mike Biddle is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs that reject the current environmental orthodoxy that “plastic is evil” and should be phased out. Eliminating plastic altogether, they argue, isn’t only unrealistic but undesirable. Without plastic, there would be no laptops, cell phones, refrigerators, toothbrushes, traffic lights or countless other products on which we’ve come to depend. Plastic is, in fact, one of the most valuable materials around. It’s durable, lightweight, adaptable to a dizzying array of applications, and—with the right mix of responsible re-use and non-petroleum-based alternatives—ecologically friendly.

“We should be celebrating plastic,” says Anthony Zolezzi, co-founder of Greenopolis and the GreenOps Recycling System, an interactive approach to giving “trash” a second life. “It’s how we abuse it and don’t re-use it that’s a problem. [Plastic is] an amazing ingredient that we should look at as a precious material, no different than we look at gold.”

Next: Turning plastic into gold

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Read more: Do Good, Green, Make a Difference, Technology

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Megan, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

47 comments

+ add your own
1:05AM PDT on May 5, 2011

New knowledge gained! Thnx for sharing

8:09PM PDT on May 1, 2011

thanks

2:40PM PDT on May 1, 2011

This is wonderful information. I hope it works out and that more cities will get and use these machines.

5:57AM PDT on Apr 26, 2011

This definitely opened my eyes a bit more. Treat your plastics like gold. Reduce your waste & recycle properly, then at least you've created a system of re-use.

9:00PM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Interesting...

2:00PM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

I would truly love to see plastic gone. Since being a more conscientous consumer I am haunted every time I shop by the excessive plastics, but I do see the other side.... of how difficult it would be and that there is a lack of people who recycle. Have nade personal switches, reusable bags... do my own baking so no bread bags, etc. but I would love to read an article like this an just go out back and make on of these machines... so we can have effective recycling.... a fear often spoken aloud in our community..... were does the plastic we bag up end up?

9:02PM PDT on Apr 21, 2011

This is very interesting information! Thank you! :)

7:40AM PDT on Apr 20, 2011

Plastic is a petroleum based product. Since we quite desperately need to reduce our petroleum consumption (addiction) we need to reduce plastic production. There are subsitutes to make bottles, bags (corn & soy) which are biodegradable. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater at this junction, but reduce our use. Styrofoam containers? Plastic Bags? Any product used once or twice and is thrown away is a ridiculous and inappropriate use of energy. One way in which we can affect production is to stop buying plastics that are minimal use with maximum negative environmental impact. Our oceans are flooded with plastic and our wildlife is eating it and it is killing them. That should inspire everyone to reduce their plastic consumption (and of course be sure to recyle any plastics you use!)

8:51PM PDT on Apr 19, 2011

I dont like plastic no matter how good they seem to think it is.Glass is reusable and I always put my sauces ect in glass.Also never microwave in plastic containers use glass containers preferable.

9:29AM PDT on Apr 19, 2011

thanks for sharing!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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