Circularity is just what it sounds like, materials never leaving the circle. In our industry, it refers to using recycled materials in manufacturing products and then those products being recycled and reused to manufacture new parts. Nothing goes to waste or landfill; the material goes from feedstock into the product, and back into feedstock.
There are plenty of picnic table manufacturers using recycled materials as a portion of their plastic furniture/lumber recipes, but what happens to those products down the road?
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation concludes that for plastic to have a circular economy, three things are required: 1. Eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics; 2. Innovate so the plastics we use are reusable, recyclable, or compostable; and 3. Circulate all plastic items to keep them in the economy and out of the environment (read more here). Adding ‘reclaimed materials’, such as wood shavings or fiberglass, currently renders both the products and manufacturing scraps as landfill waste. The technology to separate the materials for recycling is not widely available and, therefore, none of it is considered recyclable. Consider this: a manufacturer uses milk jugs as feedstock and adds other reclaimed materials to the mix. A milk jug is about .019” thick and estimated to last 450-500 years in a landfill. The new product, let’s say a park bench board, is 1-1/2” thick or almost 79 times thicker than the milk jug. That board and any scraps produced will eventually be landfilled and potentially last over 35,000 years! It’s worse than the original milk jug it was made of. It is just as important, if not more, that all park equipment, residential patio furniture, and benches are made to achieve circularity and not just made with recycled materials.
Polly Products regrinds all of the scraps and purge resulting from our manufacturing processes, and it goes right back into feedstock. Even better, if a customer breaks a component and needs a replacement, the old part is shipped back to our facility at our expense so it can be recycled instead of trashed. You’re hearing more about Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which demands the producer take back the material it produced. As far as we know, Polly Products is the ONLY outdoor furnishings manufacturer that has a take-back program that we pay for, instead of requiring the end-user to incur the costs. And it’s not new to us, we’ve done that for years.
We are grateful for all the recyclers helping us keep plastic out of the environment and put it to good use. And our thanks also to all of the enlightened customers who see the big picture and the need to act now, because there is no Planet B. We are doing great things together.