For many years, the makers of biodegradable plastics have touted them as a leading solution to the world’s plastic problem. Unfortunately, this picture is not exactly accurate as plastics recycling experts will attest.
Plastic used today to create cup lids, plastic bags, utensils, and other items. While often listed as compostable, they do not break down well during the typical composting process.
These types of plastics also tend to contaminate other types of plastics. This forces recycling center employees to stop the process and separate them.
Rather than transforming into something new, compostable plastic made primarily from polylactic acid usually end up in landfills and sit there for decades before breaking down.
A New Practice to Break Down Compostable Plastic in California
In April 2021, researchers at the University of California Berkeley announced they had created an invention that would make it much easier to break down compostable plastic. The solution to a problem that has baffled environmentalists for years is as simple as adding heat and water to the compostable plastic.
Typically, plastic takes decades to finally disintegrate. However the process of breaking down new compostable plastic now takes only a few weeks.
University of California Berkeley researchers have only used the process on single-use plastics so far. However, they are hopeful that they can apply it to several other types of polyester plastics in the future.
Another idea is to make compostable plastic products from polyolefin instead of polyethylene. This is useful because the first type of material degrades much easier than the second type.
Sonoma, California Receives CalRecycle Grant to Bring Back Recycling Center
The Plastic Recycling Corporation of California (PRCC) currently handles 45 percent of the state’s plastics recycling. That percentage amounts to over four billion pieces each year. Recently, a spokeswoman for PRCC announced a CalRecycle Grant for the City of Sonoma to fund a new recycling center.
A misconception among some Sonoma residents is that all PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic containers must contain the plastics recycling code #1 on the bottom for the city to recycle them.
However, some plastic bottles such as those used for cleaning products and shampoo have no number on them at all. The city will still recycle them if people include these types of plastic bottles in with their recyclables pick-up.
When cities cannot recycle bottles, it’s likely due to shape being incompatible with the recycling process. The good news is that the plastic bottle industry has made significant strides in designing more recyclable bottles.
Additionally, the new recycling center employees will not mix plastic bottles with food containers or paper to avoid contamination.
Major Grants Awarded to Large Recycling Companies
On April 19, 2021, the California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle, awarded Global Plastics Recycling with a $1.6 million dollar grant and Green Impact Manufacturing with a $3 million dollar grant.
Global Plastics Recycling, located in Perris, takes in PET bales and transforms them into thermoforms, pellets, sheets, and flakes. Based in Vernon, Green Impact Manufacturing will soon open a PET thermoform recycling facility.
The company, which also operates in Mexico, will accept bales of post-consumer thermoforms. They will then recycle them into RPET applications for food contractors.
Plastic has threatened to overwhelm California for a long time. Consumers and the recycling industry alike have welcomed news of the above developments with great anticipation.
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