Daily Digest: New research on the plastic problem, Nine Dragons buying another US mill
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
Today we published a piece that argues plastics have played a key role in decoupling MSW generation from economic growth, outlines how using different materials for packaging would've had alternate effects, and concludes that "plastics actually contribute to a more sustainable society as it relates to waste generation."
The arguments about plastic's ability to reduce material usage, avert food waste and other benefits are common in industry circles. Though anyone following the cultural conversation about straw bans and plastic reduction pledges knows that may not be the most popular opinion lately.
To some, this all still raises questions about whether single-use items (often made of plastic) encourage excess consumption, whether lighter weights come at the cost of commercial recyclability, and what effects mismanaged plastics have on the environment.
We're far from academics here at Waste Dive, but are always keen to learn about new research and glad to hear perspectives from those working on it. Here are a few other resources we've been exploring recently on the plastics conversation:
- Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, has gained international attention for her 2016 Senate testimony about marine debris, 2017 research showing only 9% of the plastic ever made has been recycled, and her latest paper on China's scrap import ban. Among many points, this work questions whether waste generation actually decouples from economic growth until countries reach a more developed stage. This is a key question given that a majority of the world's marine plastic comes from a small group of Asian countries at earlier stages of development than the U.S.
- In the U.K., the Resourcing the Future Partnership recently published a report about how plastic production has outpaced society's ability to manage it. Among many recommendations, the report calls for a new system of categorization to reflect that not all plastics are equal. The five categories range from items used for less than one day (wrappers, coffee pods, take-out containers) to products used for more than 12 years (window frames, plumbing, carpeting).
- Last month, Citi GPS released its own research report on single-use plastics that takes a detailed look at how material choices could potentially shift in a few "battleground" products such as soft drink bottles, coffee cups, e-commerce packaging and retail bags. Though, as summarized by Plastics News, the reports draw few clear conclusions.
Inspired to write a piece of your own on this topic or others? Check out the guidelines here and feel free to get in touch with any questions.
IN OTHER NEWS
2 more Chinese companies to purchase US recycling facilities — Resource Recycling
News of two more Chinese investments in U.S. recycling infrastructure adds to a growing trend of what many expect could be the new normal when it comes to developing domestic end markets, or finding ways to process material domestically and export for use as manufacturing feedstock.
Nine Dragons is purchasing a pulp mill in Fairmont, West Virginia from Resolute Forest Products for an undisclosed amount. While the mill has capacity to produce up to 240,000 short tons of pulp per year, it only ran at about 63% utilization in 2017 and Nine Dragons sees "a lot of potential" to ramp that up. The deal, announced Aug. 30, is expected to close within two months. This follows Nine Dragons' purchase of two mills in Maine and Wisconsin earlier this year.
Resource Recycling also has news of Yunnan Xintongji Plastic Engineering's plans to build a plastic pellet factory in Montezuma, Georgia. Yunnan Xintongji's will use recycled plastic sourced in the the U.S. for its pipe manufacturing operations in China — though most of its feedstock will be post-industrial or post-commercial material. Further details on timeline and financials are pending.
National Recovery Technologies announces Max-AI add-on to optical sorters — Press Release
NRT's SpydIR optical sorter will now include Max-AI technology from Bulk Handling Systems. The technology combines near infrared light detection with a separate module loaded with a camera that feeds data to a neural network algorithm. Instead of merely detecting objects by material, the AI system can differentiate between multiple items made of similar materials. According to BHS, the system proved capable of preventing contamination in a fiber stream operating at 600 feet per minute at a Penn Waste facility in York, Pennsylvania.
Driver dead in Toronto after being stuck between SUV and his collection truck — CTV
A driver for Miller Waste Systems, a contractor for the City of Toronto, has died after getting stuck between his truck and an SUV. He was taken to a trauma center in critical condition following the event. Officials are still investigating the cause.
Police wanted to charge cab driver in Central Park cyclist death, DA said no — Streetsblog NYC
Following the Aug. 10 death of an Australian tourist riding alongside New York's Central Park, officials were quick to charge the driver of the Mellifont Construction Corp. truck that struck her. Yet some have wondered why they didn't seek action against the driver of the cab that was illegally parked in the bike lane and forced her to swerve into traffic in the first place. Now, it's being reported that officers in the local precinct wanted to bring charges, but the Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to do so.
Minor league baseball team in Madison, Alabama to be called Trash Pandas — AL.com
After the team took nominations for a new name (to replace the Mobile BayBears) the overwhelming majority of voters elected to honor the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the city's local raccoon population. "ThunderSharks," "Moon Possums" and "Space Chimps" were all runners-up. The team will play under the new "Rocket City Trash Panda" moniker starting in 2020.
Veolia to start trial for collection vehicles powered by waste in UK — edie
Two of the company's diesel-powered collection vehicles will be retrofitted with electric motors and batteries charged with electricity generated at Sheffield's waste-to-energy facility. Starting in late 2018, the two-year program will test the feasibility of adding more electric vehicles to the fleet. The company will also add two retrofitted electric trucks to its London fleet before 2020. Veolia recently received a grant from Innovate UK to help it move away from fossil-fuel vehicles.
SEEN & HEARD
Empire State of Mind: An Interview with NYC's Sanitation Commissioner, Kathryn Garcia — Rubicon Global Podcast
Garcia joins Rubicon's "Town Haul" podcast for an interview about her career and the city's "zero waste" plans. This short episode is worth a listen to hear Garcia's thoughts on how achieving that goal is ultimately up to residents, what's next after the organics push, where she sees the future of fleet technology heading and which famous astronomer she'd like to meet.
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