An Alternative to Incinerating Polyethylene Containers?
Some background: I work with a company that recycles non-hazardous industrial waste, e.g., ink, oils, paints, etc. The polyethylene containers this stuff comes in often don't have a next stop in the recycling chain because they are too expensive to clean and ship out for reuse. The legal liability of passing on any potential harmful substances is also a big consideration. Therefore, they are simply ground up and fed into an incinerator and the subsequent heat is used to make electricity. There's hundreds of these containers a month, each about the size of a dishwasher.
Question: Does anyone on here have an tips on recycling dubious polyethylene at scale?
Phil, the challenge is economic. Expanded polyethene costs more to recycle than it does to burn. However, we covered one company that is tackling the problem last year, Styro-Go ( http://styrogo.com/). You should take a look at their approach.
Here's our coverage of Styro-Go: https://earth911.com/uncategorized/recycling-styrofoam/
Do you happen to know what resin of polyethylene containers we're talking about? Are they high-density, low-density, linear l0w-density, etc.? This will determine the recycling market, since all polyethylenes are recycled differently.
I know there are companies out there that take extra steps to remove any remnants and deodorize the resin prior to recycling, and even able to make new food grade plastic out of it. But they would likely only purchase certain resins, so we need to drill down the type of polyethylene you have.
The Styro-Go method is really interesting. It looks like they are getting news coverage and expanding their operation. Curious if I'll ever see one in the states.
As for the specific resin, I'm not sure. I'll look into it. However, here's what the containers look like. Therefore, it's likely HDPE (which I assume is high density polyeth) as mentioned here https://www.ecofulfillment.com/ibc-tote-specifications/
Do you have insight into how we can economically recycle HDPE?
Another plastic problem that you might not be aware of; the navy presses/compresses all their plastic into small, dense discs that go straight to the landfill. I wish there was also an alternative to this. It is so shameful that something different can't be done.
Since the Navy produces the discs, which can be counted and the potential energy savings from recycling calculated, there is a target for a business or policy proposal. The problem is the discs are produced all over the world, so collection is challenging. But, because every Naval base is operated by a collection of contractors, maybe there is a way to capture the discs as they are offloaded from ships and send them to a recycler.