Plastic Recycling and Manufacturing as Eco-Business

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On a recent trip to northern Italy, I noticed that many of the gelato kiosks handed out napkins laced with plastic.  This made me wonder: in our era of pervasive plastics consumption, how could a curious eco-business entrepreneur make a go of plastic recycling and manufacturing? Here are some ideas to get you started.


Understanding the Big Picture of Plastic Recycling

Plastic recycling on a mass scale begins with sorting. Plastics can be created from different polymers. Most plastic containers have identifiable markings such as a triangle, number, and abbreviation to identify plastic grade, thus polymers.  A basic plastics recycler will clean, shred, and bale the plastics. That end product would be sold for prevailing price per ton.

Once you have the basic business model in place, you can move into a more intricate plastic recycling business. To recycle and remanufacture, you need to sort, chip, and melt the plastic into pellets. Afterward, they can be manufactured into the typical plastics we see at our big box stores, such as plastic chairs and tables, coolers, or playground equipment.

Creating a Plastic Recycling Business Plan

Before you embark on any eco-business, you should really take the time to design a business plan. It will inform you before you ever get started about the pro’s and con’s of your eco-business vision.  Martin at The Houston Chronicle outlines what a tenable small business plan for a plastic recycling business plan might look like.

  • Market Research: Survey your local area as a plastic recycling market. Is a new plastic recycling company needed in your community? Are there existing local manufacturers who will pay for recycled plastics? If so, which kinds of plastic are in highest demand, and what will they pay for your recycled plastic?
  • Human Power: How will you gather recyclable plastic? What local connections do you have that would allow you to pick up their plastic refuse? Will you do the pickup yourself, seek out local community volunteers, or hire individuals?
  • File the Paperwork: Once you’ve decided to take the plunge into plastic recycling, you’ll need to apply for a business license. Visit your city clerk’s office, fill out all the necessary forms, and wait. Don’t get started until you have legitimate licensure.
  • Location, Location: Where will your recycling enterprise take place? You’ll need a site for vehicles to drop off plastics. Moreover, you space to process the plastics. The closer you are to the local community, the more likely you’ll get that constant influx of donations and drop-off’s, too.
  • Accumulate Recycling Equipment: What types of equipment do you need in order to recycle plastic? Generally, recycling plastic requires shredders, crushers, extruders, washers, and solar dryers. You might be able to buy used. Or you may be able to outsource processing at the beginning to offset startup costs. Remember that you’ll also need a vehicle large enough to transport processed recyclables to buyers.
  • Spreading the Word: Design and execute a marketing plan. Let your local community know that you’re available to help your area become more environmentally sustaining through plastic recycling. Be sure to have a fast turnaround of pickup’s from interested businesses and homeowners so you establish a reputation of reliability.

Plastic Recycling is an Important yet Multi-Layered Eco-Business

Recycling plastic is an ambitious but important eco-business.  Yes, you’ll have a lot of advanced planning and research in store for you if you’re considering this as a realistic and sound business venture. The availability of plastic product, however, which is seemingly endless at this point in time, makes plastic recycling a viable business opportunity.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via / CC BY-ND



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