Mixed plastics recycling update from the Lopez Dump

  • Tue Oct 30th, 2018 12:22pm
  • Life

Submitted by the Lopez Dump

The Lopez Dump’s “Mixed No. 1-7” plastics stream became a nonrecyclable garbage item at the beginning of 2018 due to international recycling market collapse. After nearly a year of research into better options for these plastics, no changes are expected to occur in the foreseeable future. Mixed No. 1-7 plastics, including “film” (all plastic bags, shrink wraps, etc.) and agricultural plastics (except for clean, stacked planting containers) will no longer be accepted in the recycling plaza and must be disposed of with all other garbage. The bin that was made available to receive sorted No. 1-7 plastics will no longer be in place.

All other recycling will continue as normal, including plastic No. 1 (PET, PETE) bottles, No. 2 (HDPE) bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, appliances, oil and many other materials. Two new containers are also being added to the recycle plaza: one for clean, dry bubble wrap (which is being reused by local businesses for shipping goods) and a garbage container where customers with only a “half-bag” of garbage can dispose of it in the recycling plaza.

The new container for half-bags of garbage in the recycling plaza will be a convenience for customers with small amounts of trash, eliminating the need for making an additional stop at the lower dumpsters. This added feature also aims to reduce traffic at the “z-wall” in front of the lower dumpsters. The half-bag garbage receptacle will be strictly enforced – no loose garbage or large loads will be allowed.

The dump has worked hard over the past 10 months, through a formal “Plastics Solutions Committee” to identify more responsible outlets for roughly 10,000 pounds of the Mixed No. 1-7 plastics that are annually generated in the Lopez community. Despite the committee’s work, our operation exists at the tail-end of a very costly supply chain for shipping low volumes of this material right now. The prospect of developing a small plastics recycling operation on-island for this feedstock alone is not economical.

Endless ideas and opportunities for better plastics recycling have been presented and continue to be topics of research and development among community members, partners, and industry. Our ReMake Lab, which has brought together local engineers, plastics experts and students, has tested our ability to shred certain types of plastics and “extrude” them into spools of plastic filament for use in 3D printers. These efforts have spawned others around the county to invest in similar technology in efforts to scale up toward a more commercially sized operation. These efforts and many others will continue in pursuit of zero waste.

As always, the dump owes a huge “thank you” to our volunteers who have supported the research and development of new recycling options, and those have educated thousands of Dump visitors about the fate of Mixed No. 1-7 plastics this year.

We will inform the community immediately if and when new recycling options for any of these plastics become viable alternatives to landfilling.