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Public awareness of the perils of plastic waste never has been higher, thanks to National Geographic’s June magazine dedicated to the problem. Company recycling commitments and governmental bans are on the rise, even as China’s ban on U.S. recycled materials continues to reverberate across the industry.
This pivotal moment of crisis and opportunity is a chance to reimagine and rebuild the U.S. recycling industry. As Nina Goodrich, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, said in her keynote address at the recent SPC Advance conference: “We need to take the opportunity of the wakeup call from China to build the infrastructure that’s going to manage the materials of the future and not get caught flat-footed by looking to the past.”
One of the biggest challenges is creating market demand for new post-consumer materials. “If everything is recyclable, but nobody wants it, is it recyclable?” Goodrich exhorted the crowd.
Companies can help solve this conundrum by working with both their supply chains to design materials that are more recyclable, and with the recycling industry to ensure that materials recovery is economically viable.