Top business organizations make push to support advanced recycling technology

Plastic waste. If you thought we were doing a good job of recycling it, you’d be mistaken.

When it comes to water bottles and milk cartons, yes, but when it comes to everything else — think large, complex plastics such as Astroturf or mixed materials like most food packaging — we’re falling behind. In fact, only 9% of total plastic products get recycled.

That’s why a statewide coalition of the New Jersey’s leading business organizations recently sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to support advanced recycling technology in the Garden State.

The state’s largest groups are advocating for the technology “as an integral step toward developing a sustainable, circular manufacturing economy,” according to the letter.

Among several benefits of the plan is to create more jobs and further protect the environment.

“Building a more robust circular economy is the right thing to do for New Jersey,” the letter said. “By reusing more of the everyday plastics we depend on, instead of sending them to a landfill, we can protect our environment and develop a new industry that will create jobs and strengthen our economy. That’s why 25 states have adopted measures that encourage the growth of the advanced recycling industry. As a result, the industry has created more than 40 projects since 2017, representing over $7 billion in investment and diverting nearly 9 million metric tons of waste from U.S. landfills.”

The letter was signed by the following organizations:

“As leaders from across New Jersey, we support our state taking additional measures to expand advanced recycling technology as an integral step toward developing a sustainable, circular manufacturing economy,” they wrote. “New Jersey has a long history of being a national leader in recycling, but, recently, we have fallen behind other states in attracting new innovative technologies, particularly to address plastic waste.

“While plastics are widely used in our everyday lives, many types are difficult to recycle with current mechanical technologies alone. Existing recycling facilities can shred items like water bottles and milk jugs but can’t take on complex plastics like Astroturf or mixed materials like most food packaging. As a result, only about 9% of plastics are ever recycled, so the items we throw away typically end up in landfills or incinerators. Without new solutions, growing demand for plastics will continue to compound this challenge.

“Addressing plastic waste is a tough problem, but New Jerseyans know how to come together to adopt innovative solutions. Advanced recycling utilizes unique modern techniques that don’t just grind plastics into pellets, but breaks them down into their basic raw materials, which are chemically indistinguishable from new plastics. This means that they could be reused in all kinds of new high-quality products and packaging. Advanced recycling complements our existing recycling programs by introducing manufacturing processes that expand the types of complex plastics that can be recycled.”