Our worldwide Collection System
On a daily basis we buy, use and generate a huge amount of plastic. Once this plastic is used, usually for a very short time, it’s discarded. Depending on where you live, you might drop it off at a local recycling point or they’ll collect it from your home to take it to further processing. This is normally where the problems begin.
But why - it’s being recycled, right? Well, the plastic that people throw in their recycling bin is unsorted, usually dirty and often mixed with other materials (the soda bottle with the film label, for example). As we’ve learnt already, separating plastics is fundamental to proper recycling and well, they aren’t going to do it for us. Industrial sorting is possible, with infrared scanning, water density techniques and hand picking, but it’s no way near efficient enough to sort through the 348 million metric tons that is produced every year. Yup.
Ok. That’s grim. So what happens to it?
Sometimes, the plastic is recycled. As you’ve probably read somewhere, it’s around 9%. It needs to go through a very complex, expensive, time-consuming and energy-intensive process and most countries don’t even have this option to do so.
The other, more likely scenario is that plastic is either burnt, sent to a landfill, dumped in the ocean, or sent on a cargo ship to Asia or Africa (where they certainly don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it). These solutions cause huge environmental damage and social oppression. Have you ever caught yourself thinking - I don’t see any rubbish anywhere! Our streets in western countries are clean. But some places in Asia, Africa, it’s often seen as dirty and littered - it’s everywhere in the ocean and they burn it on the streets. That’s because collection systems have to be subsidized by the state through taxpayer money which is just not doable in many places. But don’t get this one mixed up - the west is still the biggest producer of plastic waste on the planet. And on top of this, collection systems worldwide are not standardized. Every country and municipality within that country have different regulations. This leaves people very confused (including us).
There are numerous challenges connected with the way plastic is currently collected:
- Collected plastic is often dirty and mixed with other materials
- It is very resource-intensive - running a fleet of trucks and drivers around the city 24/7 is hugely expensive.
- It encourages a throw-away culture (??)
But don’t worry - we have a plan! 💪
The Precious Plastic Collection System
You probably know by know, but Precious Plastic is focused on citizens: people, just like us, just like you, taking action. We invite you to become more involved in your plastic waste and become part of the solution. By providing the information and infrastructure, community can be a tool for change.
So how does this work for collecting plastic? Great question 😉
Note: when we say citizens, we mean everyone in society. When we say people in our community, we mean those that have become part of the Precious Plastic community (and if you haven’t already, join us!)
One. We give people all the information they need to properly clean their plastic at home and then show them where they can bring it to make sure it’s recycled properly. Education is at the core of everything we do (knowledge = power) so teaching citizens on the importance of clean, label free plastic can alone create a huge shift.
Two. We show people in our community how to create Collection Points in their local area to accept the clean plastic from citizens. As we only accept this clean, label free plastic it means that we’re also showing citizens and our community how valuable this material can be.
Benefits of this approach
This new approach offers a few different benefits for both people and the environment:
First (and most important) is that the material collected is of high quality. Setting up a local collection points that are managed by members of the community helps to obtain higher quality material that is clean and usable.
Second, it stays local. The plastic collected will be recycled and transformed in one of the local Precious Plastic workspaces, not shipped across the planet hoping someone else will take care of it.
Third is education. This approach aims to inform and educate citizens on plastic and how to recycle it properly. This is a long-term strategy that is quite time-consuming in the beginning, but we believe will pay off in the long run. Forth, it’s powered by people, not by the government or companies. So it’s resilient, human, and accessible.
Are you in? We hope so! We’ve developed a bunch of tools for citizens, as well as people in our community.
For citizens we have a website that will teach them about the Precious Plastic recycling system, how to clean plastic and how to use the map so they can find their local drop off point.
For people in our community we’re developed:
- A starter-kit: if you’re interested in becoming a collection point this will give you everything you need to get started
- A platform to connect everyone in the community. You can use the map to find local workspaces, or the How-To tool to learn about other collection strategies from around the world
- Posters for your workspace or for your community to help spread the word
- A tool to weigh how much plastic you process, so we can add it up and see the impact of the Precious Plastic Universe
Want to share feedback, chat about collecting plastic or learn more from the community? Head to the #Collect channel on Discord. Here we talk about the Collection system, Pickup points and how to sort plastic.