Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Plastic Going to Waste in Ireland

The Edie story “Ireland poor on plastics recycling despite manufacturing demand” highlights a vexing and ironic problem. Ireland needs recyclable plastic as a raw material and imports it by the shipload from other countries. At the same time, it discards three fourths of its own waste plastic, with most of it going into landfills.

This is a multi-billion-dollar problem in Ireland alone, and on the face of it, it is a mostly solvable problem. Plastic is everywhere you turn and costs $1 per kilogram or more, but getting the waste plastic to the right factories just an old-fashioned logistics challenge. The persistence of big problems like this goes to show that the economy is far from optimized. There is still plenty of room for improvement at a basic level, before you have to resort to anything fancy or risky.