Saturday, August 26, 2017

Where Your Recycled Plastic Goes

After last night's megastorm of horrible news (Hurricane Harvey, the Arpaio pardon, the ban on trans people in the military) and, I guess? good news (the Mueller subpoenas and Gorka's resignation), I have nothing to say I haven't said before about IMPOTUS (though I can't resist saying, here's one thing I wrote about Arpaio a few years ago).

Instead, here's another piece of good news to cheer us up just a bit, and it even has a State Fair tie-in: Wonder what those recycled bottles are made into? State Fair display will tell you.

The story's lead focuses on a company called Bedford Technology, based in Worthington, Minn., that transforms number 2 plastics into dock pilings. Pilings used to be made out of old-growth lumber, which is hard to come by and requires maintenance. They can also be made out of steel, but those get eaten by bacteria, believe it or not.  Plastic, though, is forever, which when it comes to dock pilings is a good thing. Even ice doesn't stick to it.

The pilings are on display in the Eco Experience building at this year's State Fair, thanks to Wayne Gjerde, recycling market development coordinator for our state Pollution Control Agency. Each year Gjerde looks for ways to visualize recycling and reuse for the public at the EE building, and it's one of my favorite parts of the Fair.

Another company described in the story and featured in this year's EE display is Master Mark, which makes raised-garden-bed corners, garden edging, and garage and patio floor tiles out of milk jugs and plastic bags. They're located in Paynesville, Minn. They sell through mainstream hardware stores and online, where their sales have quadrupled over the past several years. Jobs jobs jobs, see?

Here are some more facts I learned from the story:

  • There are more than 260 companies in Minnesota using recycled or reused material to make new products.
  • Those companies employ 18,000 people. Another 45,500 people have jobs in repair work, and combined, those workers' companies support another 74,500 jobs at supplier companies.
  • Despite that good news, between 1996 and 2013, Minnesotans discarded almost 20 million tons of recyclables that would have been worth $2.3 billion.
I wonder if you made a bar chart of those lost recyclables over the years, whether the trend is getting worse, better, or staying the same?

Thank you to Wayne Gjerde and the MPCA for all of their work, and realizing the "pollution" in their agency name covers a lot more territory than black smoke coming out of a stack or raw sewage flowing out of a pipe.

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