Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
Did you know that $10-million worth of used plastic products, and probably more are being stolen each year – and that’s just in California’s Los Angeles County. The county sheriff’s Plastic Theft Task Force earlier this week arrested three people suspected of stealing nearly $250,000 worth of plastic products so they could sell them to recyclers.
I liked the comment by Mark Garrison of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, who caught the news item on a local radio station: “We finally hit the big time! Plastics are being stolen for their recycling value!” No kidding, and I’m thinking the value must have gone pretty high for the sheriff to set up a task force.
Being stolen may not be the best way for plastics to have its value acknowledged, but it’s already taken too long
for the general public to get it. It’s actually simple: The absolute best thing to do with a used plastic product is put it into a recycling stream, and if recycling isn’t available, put it into a waste-to-energy stream. Burying perfectly reusable plastics in a landfill is just plain wrong, no exceptions. However, the abundance of misinformation circulating about recycling plastics confuses the average person.
Most of what is being stolen in Los Angeles County is the plastic pallets, trays, bins, and baskets you see behind stores, especially grocery markets. The task force has recovered over $5 million in stolen trademarked plastics destined for recycling during the preceding four months.
Ask plastic recyclers to list their biggest problems and the difficulty in securing a reliable stream of incoming material will be number one or in the top three. Increasing the number and scope of recycling streams is the obvious solution to that problem. That’s why the plastics industry has been a strong supporter of recycling for decades, both locally and through organizations such as SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. Cutting down on crime may be a good motivation for increased and improved recycling, but really, should it have to come to that?