As the head of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division, I think about plastics recycling every single day, so you’d think that I’d be used to the idea that the water bottle in your hand can end up in the carpeting under your feet. And yet, ACC’s first “Innovators in Plastics Recycling” awards have made me realize that’s simply not the case.
Just look at the companies we’re honoring, and you’ll see why we’re so excited about innovations in plastics recycling.
We just recognized Axion International, Inc., Nepco Industrial Company Ltd., and Trex Company for developing high-performing, popular products or processes using post-consumer recycled plastics. Between them, they employ some 700 Americans and process about 325 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastics annually. The winners truly exemplify the philosophy that – plastics are too valuable to waste and should be recycled.
Consider Nepco, which is based in Chino, California. Nepco makes high-end moldings for picture frames from recycled polystyrene foam (think packing peanuts and coffee cups) at its 36,000-square-foot facility, where it processes 4.2 million pounds of post-consumer polystyrene per year.
Tommy Kim, the director of U.S. operations for Nepco, told us that their machinery can reduce the volume of expanded polystyrene by a factor of 80 to 1, “making it easier for businesses and communities to manage this valuable material, while helping to protect the environment.”
Nepco – along with our other two award winners Axion and Trex – are demonstrating that good for the environment and good economics can work hand in hand. Like Nepco, Axion and Trex use post-consumer plastics to manufacture high-performing products. Axion makes extremely strong railroad ties, primarily from recycled polyethylene (think milk jugs and detergent bottles) and Trex makes durable, low-maintenance decking from recycled plastic film (think plastic grocery, newspaper and bread bags).
Together, these companies show that plastics recycling in the United States is a growing industry, and importantly, one that we can all support by remembering to recycle the plastics we use every day.