Recycled Plastic and the Pull-through Effect

Putting recycled plastic to practical (re)use

What to do with all that plastic we consume? There's no easy solution to the alternatives before us: dumping vs. recycling, processing vs. burning, environmental care vs. commercial reality. We are just pleased to be rid of it. But what if there was more we could do?

Once its virgin use is done, plastic is an environmental hazard. But in its material composition lay its ongoing value. Put simply, the more we reuse our plastic, the more viable is the recycling process. That’s where the Pull-through Effect comes in: building demand for products made from plastic waste.

According to Mark Jacobsen, marketing manager at Replas, there is an over-supply of waste suitable for producing the most practical of products. This material predominantly goes offshore, much of it to be used as fuel in furnaces. “We get enquiries almost daily from organisations asking if we’ll take their plastic waste,” says Mark. It is fantastic that people want to take responsibility for their waste. "But unless there is demand for products made from the material, the process will be unsustainable."

Old habits die hard. Timber largely remains the material of choice for councils and others 
procuring seating, bollards, boardwalk decking, etc. That is despite the fact that plastic is proven to have considerable life cycle benefits.

Then of course there is the undeniable case for putting a finite resource taken from Mother Earth to functional use for service well into the future. “If we change those habits,” says Mark, “we have a solution for the waste generated.” That is the Pull-through Effect – more demand for the reuse of plastic and so more plastic usefully recycled.

Environmental protection concerns everyone and we all produce plastic waste. Whether individual or corporation, non-profit or local authority, if we commit to using and promoting products made from the waste we generate, we are increasing the Pull-through Effect, and creating a partnership of good environmental citizens. More demand equals more beneficial reuse equals more effective recycling.

The good news is that the Pull-through Effect is happening now. Organisations are increasingly turning to recycled plastic as they witness the benefits of legacy installations.

It is more than a dozen years since a Waitomo cave tour operator installed Replas Enduroplank™ to overcome the inadequacies of timber in the continually wet and slippery environment. More success stories followed, and recently Hastings District Council working with NZ Transport Authority used Enduroplank to create a 150m cycleway/footpath on the SH2 bridge across the Clive River. That was the equivalent of 4.2 million plastic shopping bags diverted from the landfill or atmosphere to become a community’s recreational asset!

The move towards more and better reuse of plastic waste is gaining momentum. On 25 November 2015 
Minister for the Environment The Hon. Dr Nick Smith launched the Soft Plastic Drop Off Recycling Initiative. This partnership with The Packaging Forum has special bins placed in New World, Pak ‘n Save, Countdown and The Warehouse stores across Auckland, where soft plastics can be disposed of for use by Replas. The recycling loop will close completely when these corporates and others buy back recycled plastic products for their own use or to donate to local community groups.  

As the Soft Plastic Drop Off Recycling Initiative rolls out, the aim is to give over 70% of the population access to in-store bins within a 20km radius of the home or workplace. New Zealanders use over 1.6 billion plastic bags in the home every year. Replas can make a lot of great products with that!  

Large Civic Bin pair-633

  Plastic for recycling-257
  Picket fence plastic & timberEnduroplank Boardwalk Waitomo-795

Clive Bridge Enduroplank-880

      Premier setting-144
Clive Bridge bollard plaque


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