The Feasibility of Recycling Plastic Wastes: An Update

T. Randall Curlee

DOI: 10.2190/1G00-CM2T-XTXJ-FEUJ


This article updates the findings of the author's 1986 book on plastic recycling entitled The Economic Feasibility of Recycling: A Case Study of Plastics Waste. Recent developments and trends are reviewed in five main areas: new technologies; recent environmental findings; the development of new institutional structures to facilitate markets for recycled materials and the flow of relevant information; legislative and regulatory trends; and the costs of waste disposal. It is argued that recent technological developments have promoted recycling, but have failed to overcome the problems of separating plastics from other similar wastes and have contributed little to recycling contaminated plastics. It is also argued that recent environmental findings have done little to ease the controversy about the effects of plastics when landfilled or incinerated. The article suggests that recent developments in institution building and the rapid enactment of regulations and legislation that directly or indirectly affect recycling have been most important in encouraging additional recycling. Unfortunately, some government actions are inconsistent, reflecting the significant uncertainties faced by decision makers. The movement toward more recycling has also been encouraged by recent increases in the cost of disposal.

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