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Plastic pollution - I want to provide value

Discussion in 'Ideas, Needs, Concept Feedback' started by Andreas Thrane, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Andreas Thrane
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    Andreas Thrane New Contributor I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Hello guys and girls.

    With this thread I hope to encourage you to join a brainstorm with me.


    I want to provide real value in connection to my great passion; do something about plastic pollution. The question is how do I do that best?

    My current thoughts:

    Produce and sell children items that are made of recycled plastic gathered in the oceans. I target the children items, because it provides the opportunity to educate the next generation AND their parents. The items will be sold for a premium price, so the end costumer find themselves in the top of the Maslow Pyramid. The case of marketing will be solved by creating a partnership with well-known interested organizations like Plastic Change and social media.

    This idea meets the demands of the CENT analysis. The downside is, that I can’t get going with this idea right now, because I can’t get around the entry barrier. I estimated the start-up cost to be around 124.121,45 dollars. I don’t have that kind of money, but one day I hope I can get going with this idea.


    An idea with a low barrier entry: Create a concept where people pay me to go remove plastic in the nature. This idea does not meet the CENT requirements, but it will get my feet wet in the understanding of making a business, which I never tried. Thinking of copywriting, social media marketing, public relations, creating a website and management in general.


    I hope you want to join the brainstorm. I just want to get going.



    Andreas Thrane.
     
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  2. MTF
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    MTF Never give up Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Unfortunately the answer to plastic pollution isn't recycling. You can recycle all you want, and each year there will still be more plastic than the year before just because of how much plastic is being produced every day.

    Making toys made of recycled materials is not a solution to this problem. It might make you and your clients feel good (and might be a good business idea), but it's not a viable solution if your primary reason is to help deal with plastic pollution. Even if you use 10 tonnes of recycled plastic a year to make your toys, it won't change the fact that 1000000x more plastic (or whatever the number is) is being produced each year.

    I think that the most viable way to help deal with plastic pollution would probably have something to do with manufacturing new, environment-friendly materials that could replace plastic. The catch is that these materials would have to have a much smaller footprint and at the same time be so much cheaper and easier that it would be a no-brainer for companies to stop using plastic. This is extremely difficult to achieve, but well, where there's a high barrier of entry, there's a potential for a billion-dollar company.

    This problem is explained well here:


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7IzU2VJIQ
     
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  3. Andreas Thiel
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    Andreas Thiel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I think MTF's post is a little too negative. Sure, finding a way to establish a healthy lifecycle for all plastic products or replacing plastic as the go to solution would be better, but just chipping away at the problem and getting scale going for you would already make the world a slightly better place and probably satisfy the CENTS commandments. Not sure about "Need", though. Oil will probably become cheaper, so meeting the Need commandment directly is probably a challenge.

    At "Wait But Why" (e.g. The deeper meaning behind each of Elon Musk’s companies) there are great examples for aligning business models with huge goals, but probably something like that is why you wanted to start such a brainstorming process!?

    Recycling will at some point have to play a role ... but your business model might need to target something else first. I also wouldn't think children's toys first. 3D printing came to mind for me. Recycling it as 3D printing filament would be ideal. There are already companies that sort the plastic pieces using computer vision. This seems to be financially viable already, but not sure how and I cannot remember what documentary or news clip I saw that in ...

    I personally am worried about the plastic that has degraded and entered the food chain when it is consumed by our food - directly or indirectly. Maybe that is something that could be targeted.
    Thinking outside the box, a solution that measures the pollution / poisoning of a given (batch of) fish could be financially interesting somehow.
    There could be certificates for quality, which would indirectly provide an incentive for businesses to do something about the issue.

    It might also make sense to look at other resources related issues. There might be overlap so that a generic solution could be interesting. Or maybe a company that solves several weakly related issues with a business model that that benefits from similarities (e.g. through upselling) could be identified. The issue that sand is becoming scarce (because of the growing need for cement) comes to mind.

    [EDIT]Also, the overfishing issue probably is just as important as plastic pollution. Sylvia Earle's TED Talk and the one by Enric Sala: Glimpses of a pristine ocean also outline somewhat related issues.
    A healthier ocean would probably be more resilient - but no idea how that could be integrated into a business.
    I have often thought about if a media company might be the way to go, there. A "Baseline Watch" documentary series that documents the state of different hot spots each year, shows progress when there is progress or creates awareness of decline or stagnation when there isn't.
    To make that work it would be important to provide videos that people want to see, and maybe even something that has not taken off yet, like 180 degree stereoscopic VR content.
    [/EDIT]
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
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  4. LittleWolfie
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    Buy the patent of the guy who invented a way to turn plastic into oil, sell somewhere with expensive oil and lots of imports. ?UK Plastic to Petrol.

    I think he needed $100000 to get started, and never could raise the money. Especially as US has much cheaper gasoline then they discovered the shale oil.

    Do something else to raise the money then do your idea.
     
  5. MJ DeMarco
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    MJ DeMarco Raving Lunatic Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    Love the idea, very marketable.

    This sounds more like a passion project VS a "get rich" project. It's screaming to be done in a non-profit, not a business venture. And with a non-profit, you can start taking donations and crowd-sourcing for funds.

    Bingo.

    The objective should be to reduce plastic production -- a great place is to replace plastic bags and plastic "to go" containers with recycled cardboard or some variation.
     
  6. LittleWolfie
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    LittleWolfie Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Plastic bags have been mostly done away with in Europe now. Do you still use them in the US much?

    I wonder if exporting the replacements could be viable.
     
  7. MJ DeMarco
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    Yes, especially at grocery stores, and bagging fresh produce.
     
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  8. LittleWolfie
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    Their still used for bagging fresh produce(apart from the supermarket Morrisons,whose phasing in alternatives) the manufacturer simply can't make enough fast enough for all the stores.

    Some of the smallest grocery stores do use them, however it has been an 83% reduction (1 billion bags a year less).

    Their is a whole lot of open data available on how to accomplish this, what alternatives to use, and how to supply them.

    Since the suppliers are tooling up, perhaps someone could import them to the US?


    Actually looking into it OP's first statement is not as strange as it sounds.

    Plastic bags are HDPE which is regularly recycled

    View: https://youtu.be/H6hsMNwoN90


    Those pellets are basically the plastic version of metal ignots,their commonly used to make milk bottle caps, so toys don't seem like a far stretch.

    The massive reduction in plastic bags might actually lead to a shortage in the long run.

    I think this can be a much higher entry level company, sell the toys and have a recycling stream for them too.

    If OP doesn't want this it's going on my five year plan.

    I can see a billion Euro idea here that fits CENTS. OP, you should read the luxury strategy thread.
     
  9. Andreas Thiel
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  10. DennisDuty
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    I have a pretty long history branding companies that "do good".

    To solve the plastic problem, you don't actually need to have a 1:1 problem/solution ratio. You don't need to literally take plastic out of the ocean and turn it into a plastic product.
    [​IMG]

    The above is a piece of copy I wrote for a sunglasses manufacturer. They sell wooden sunglasses and plant a tree for every pair purchased.

    It reduces plastic in the wild, while contributing to the environmental cause in other ways. If they wanted to expand, they could pivot and do MORE environmental things.

    Outside of the environment, there are even more creative ventures. When I worked with (RED) I was surprised to find that they're a for-profit that provides assistance to Africa via zero-cost licensing. Their entire operation is just a branding play.

    In general: I think your field-of-view is too narrow.

    "Find people to pay you to clean the environment" is a goddamn nightmare. There are other ways.
     
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  11. Sevan
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    Just saying that plastic is bad for the planet is way to rational. You need to create something more emotional around the kids, such as "Your children play with the poison of their future" that scares people. Or "Our wooden toys save the planet for our children" or "Heal the world with ... toys" and the best is social pressure. Such as look this parent buys plastic toys, oh my god.

    You have to be emotional to move people.
     
  12. Arevico
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    Indeed, aswell as if you make the 'good' choice the easy (broad in all dimensions) choice for most if not all of the stakeholders I think this is key
     
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  13. Rick Phillips
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    The video posted by @MTF points out some interesting facts. Here is what I gained from the video and my opinion on each point.

    1. Only 9% of the plastics produced are recycled.

    I disagree with this point. Making anything from recycled plastics will increase the demand for waste plastic and this is one very good solution to the problem. It might not be a show stopper but it will contribute to reducing the amount of plastic that is burnt or left to decay in the environment. Developing new techniques in recycling plastic and putting pressure on plastic producers to use recycled materials will not only increase the percentage of plastics that are recycled but it will also reduce the amount that are created. Turning plastic waste into a commodity will eliminate it pretty quickly.

    2. 40% of plastic produced is used for packaging.

    The UK is a well developed Country. Almost all of the food packaging that we buy can be rinsed and placed in a recycling bin which is then collected by the local government during the week and hopefully recycled. If more counties strived to operate on this basis then the 9% figure from point 1 should be closer to 40%. It is just as easy to put waste in your recycling bin as it is your waste bin. If your country doesn't have a good recycling policy then there is no reason why a private company couldn't be established to make money from recycling. Either by charging to remove the waste or by selling on the recycled material.
    That said rumours are rife around the UK that the majority of our plastic recycling is sent to China by fossil fuel powered boat and isn't recycled in the UK. Therefore the net effect is possibly negligible but the public will never really know the truth.

    3. Plastic takes 500 - 1000 years to break down.

    On this basis plastic should only be used to make items which need to be extremely durable. Single use plastics shouldn't really be legal. A poignant quote I heard on this subject recently was ""It's only one straw" said eight billion people".

    But where could new and waste plastic be used? Road surfacing, building materials, furniture, decorative items? I recently read about a German firm that grinds plastic toys down to granules and then produces surprisingly great looking decorative items along with bath tubs, basins and other items frequently found in the home that aren't usually made of plastic. Again, making waste plastic valuable.

    MJ mentions in Unscripted that one of the forum members collects shredded tyres from the side of the freeway and turns them into decorative garden chippings. A service which is useful to the community and environmentally friendly. The possibilities of doing this with plastic are endless.

    4. BPA damages hormones such as testosterone yet 93% of us have it in our urine.

    If this isn't enough to stop people from drinking out of plastic bottles then I'm not sure what is. I suffered from a virus and a burnout last year and one of the side effects was lowered testosterone. When your testosterone is dramatically lowered you really notice. You lose strength, sex drive, muscle mass, concentration, intelligence, sleep quality and confidence. Whilst people might not notice a slight drop in their testosterone, most people would wish to optimise each of the above factors that I found were effected by a lack of testosterone. I shall certainly be looking for the BPA free label on all plastic packaging from now on. I will also be swapping my plastic gym bottle for a glass one.

    5. 90% of plastic waste in the sea from rivers comes from just 10 rivers.

    I'd be interested to know the total amount of sea plastic that arrives from rivers and it should be noted that this is 90% of river plastic and not total plastic. Interestingly, 2 of the rivers are in Africa and the other 8 are in Asia.

    There are so many start ups in the world focused on collecting sea plastic. Surely we could all save a lot of time if the mouth of each of these rivers were to be fitted with a filtration system to remove all plastic waste so that it doesn't end up in the sea in the first place. Let the plastic come to you rather than searching the ocean for the plastic. A bit like shutting the stable door rather than waiting for the horse to escape and then spending two days searching the surrounding area for the horse.

    6. One third of food produced is thrown away and not eaten.

    How is that even possible? We truly are wasteful scum.

    Good luck buddy. I will keep an eye on this thread in the hope that some brain storming starts as per your original request.
     
  14. MTF
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    It will contribute, but we're either talking about solving the problem of plastic pollution (huge scale thinking) or building a business that contributes (on a very tiny scale) to eliminating some plastic waste, but that doesn't deal with the underlying problem.

    Let's imagine you have a big mansion with 1000 rooms. You hire a person to clean it. While this person is busy cleaning one room, the other 999 rooms are filled with trash. When your cleaner starts cleaning the other room, the previous room is immediately filled with trash. And not only this room, but now there's sh*t all over your mansion's walls and roof, too. The moment your cleaner moves on to the third room, the second one is immediately filled with trash. But it doesn't stop there, because now also your backyard is full of junk, and soon your driveway looks like a garbage dump, too.

    Does cleaning one room help? On a very tiny scale sure, it does. Does it solve the underlying problem? Not at all.

    If your boat has a hole and is sinking, removing the water that's coming in might help slow down the process a little. But in the end, the boat will still sink, because you won't solve the problem by taking stuff out (removing the water), but by stopping what's coming in (plugging the hole).

    If OP is satisfied with starting a business that makes people feel good, but ultimately doesn't contribute much to solving the underlying problem, fine. Better some action than none at all. If he's after a really big impact and actually doing something to solve the problem, though, recycling is not the solution. The priority should be to plug the hole or stop the filthy people from trashing your place.
     
  15. Rick Phillips
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    So global legislative change?

    Making it illegal to produce single use plastics would be a great start. It would also force companies to create or use innovative solutions. I believe that this has already started to a point.

    It does come down to the individual though and people don't seem to be able to make these positive decision for themselves. My gym recently got rid of the plastic cup dispenser attached to their water machine. The next time I went to the gym everyone magically had their own water bottle and plastic cup waste at the gym went from hundreds of cups per day to nil overnight. Unfortunately the majority of people need to be forced to take action as in this example.

    Hilariously it was recently revealed that our own government's environmental team still used a water dispenser with plastic cups in their office until it was exposed.

    The alternative is that one day we all have to go about our business carrying a backpack containing shopping bags, a coffee cup, cutlery, a plate, a straw and a bottle! "The just in case single use plastic avoidance kit" get yours on amazon now for $29.99.
     
  16. Andreas Thiel
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    I feel like your original post sounded more negative than you meant it. Seemed like you dismissed the idea of recycling as pointless altogether.

    I agree that conquering the lifecycle for resources would be ideal. Hedonistic Sustainability would turn the issue into a design challenge (or an optimization problem) for architects (in a broad sense). Rolling systems out in different industries (they don't even have to be completely closed if imbalances can be managed) would be a big think approach again, but finding a business model for that ... not easy.

    I fear we approach the limit of what is possible inside a free market economy.
    There are many things that make sense but it is hard to get them to make financial sense, no matter how you twist it.
    Point 5. in Rick Phillips' reply is an example. Intercepting the trash at the source would make a lot of sense ... but is it actually easier to create a business model around that insight than it is for a solution that attacks the issue "after the fact"? (Bad example, because the video mentions a better solution: making sure the waste does not end up in the rivers at all ... but you know ...)
    Overfishing is an example that worries me even more. Enric Sala explains why it is even a financial no-brainer to protect 20% of the oceans ... but the incentives are messed up enough that it won't happen. Awareness is not the solution and incentives might work if they were not used as a synonym for regulations. There would have to be a new layer of economy over the free market economy that "creates money" for democratic goals in addition to the free(style) economy.
    Peter Diamandis says: "we get what we incentivize". I agree ... but we don't incentivize at all.
    That is why I think chipping away at the problem is the only game in town.

    I personally would love to learn more about recycling, upcycling and burning of garbage.

    Burning plastic is bad ... but what if it wasn't? What exactly is lost in the process? Could carbon capture and other processes in combination with solar energy be used to create a cycle - if they were improved in certain ways?
     
  17. LittleWolfie
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    No need to make it illegal, just follow the EU example and put a 5 cent charge on all single use plastics. The extra charge and sales tax revenue gives a strong encouragement to people to find alternatives. Even better if you can add the negative externalities into the cost. Essential charge all plastic bag manufacter s for the cost of removing plastic bags from the ecosystem, and watch them shift or get pushed out by alternatives.

    Your awareness and extra layer is similar to the idea of carbon trading writ large or a consumption tax rather than an income tax (again make people and companies pay based on the resources and social or ecolgial damage they cause, rather than the amount of money they generate. If you want to create lots of damage then you have to buy your ecological capacity from some poor person (or fund the welfare system)

    It isn't what is lost when you burn plastic, it's what is added or given off when air and plastic are combined.

    Symptoms of being near styrene gas form burning of plastic in air
    • Central nervous system and kidney effects.
    • Headaches.
    • Depression.
    • Fatigue and weakness.
    • Hearing loss.
    • Balance and concentration problems.
    • Cancer.
    Not to mention the dioxins, Using this stuff in a battle would be a war crime.

    If it wasn't this bad then incinerating the stuff for power would be a good recycling program.
     
  18. Tommo
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    Meanwhile Ocean Cleanup starts near San Francisco bay. They are calling it PacMan, or formally System 001. Developed by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat
     
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    Great thread.. Social awareness coupled with a lean - clean plastic recycling quickly close to the source (before contamination accurs) may in effect be the first stage in turning off the tap on this crazy barbaric behaviour. Well done ...Man with a mission
    ...I like that..
     
  20. CareCPA
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    I would approach it from both ends.
    You can clean up the plastic, recycle it into other products, and sell those.
    But also, create alternatives to those plastic items (like @MTF said). They need to be economically priced and easy to use. Without those two factors, only the passionate will switch.

    Doing both simultaneously would provide the largest impact. This is not a one-person operation, but a global movement that will be necessary.
    Keep in mind, you're probably only targeting first-world countries at this point.
     
  21. Andreas Thrane
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    Thank you for your reply.

    I do not 100% agree with you. I think the solution to the plastic pollution is multifacetted. You have to clean up the mess we are causing right now AND approach with innovation.
    What are my potential to create some value? I am no engineer to develop an alternative material to plastic - even though it would make me a very wealthy man. That entry barrier are just too damn high for me.
     
  22. MTF
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    Okay, so let's assume that you want to help clean up the mess (let's forget for a second that while you're cleaning up the mess, there's much, much, much more mess being created elsewhere and the only way to solve plastic pollution is to deal with the problem at the source).

    Here's another point to consider: what's the average lifespan of a children's toy? A few months? A year? Children destroy most toys very quickly, sometimes the first day they get them. Even if they don't break the toy, what happens with the toy once the child gets bored of it? Most toys are probably thrown out unless there's another child on the way or the parents have enough time (and are willing) to donate it (and if it's not easy, they won't do it).

    You could perhaps offer to buy the toys back for a fraction of the price once they're no longer needed and maybe recycle the plastic again (not sure how feasible it is). However, wouldn't it make more sense to manufacture something with a longer lifespan so that you can take the plastic from the environment for more than just a few months? Stuff like furniture or anything else that you buy for years or decades makes more sense than toys.

    Moreover, let's be clear here: you'll sell your toys to wealthy first-world parents. Their children already have hundreds of toys. Do they really need another toy they'll quickly throw away? Children don't care if a toy is eco-friendly or not; when they get bored of it, they'll stop playing with it (and the parents will throw it away). It doesn't really appear very eco-friendly or sustainable to me.

    Lastly, if we're talking about plastic polluting the oceans, unless you buy the recycled plastic specifically from countries that contribute most to the pollution (according to a 2015 article, just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam account for 60% of plastic pollution in the oceans), you'll probably buy plastic that wouldn't end up in the ocean anyway.

    And if you do plan to buy it from these countries, then there's the conundrum of buying recycled plastic from, say, Asia, shipping it to Europe or the United States (and producing a lot of pollution while transporting it), and then claiming that you're eco-friendly (unless you plan to sell the toys only in the same countries that pollute the most).

    I'm all for protecting the environment and it's a very important cause for me, but we need to look at it from the 80/20 perspective. Entrepreneurs who want to think big (my assumption was that this was the approach you wanted to take) need to focus on the vital few causes that account for most pollution, not create feel-good businesses that ultimately don't change anything in the grand scheme of things.
     
  23. MTEE1985
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    When my wife and I moved back to AZ we were in a rental community while house shopping and the community didn’t even offer recycling. Imagine the amount of plastic that went in trash from 100 different units.

    I bring this up because the first thought that came to mind was: if I offered them at no charge to place recycling bins around, how could I profit from the items in there?

    If there is a way to operate a business around repurposing this plastic into toys then I imagine you can find all the raw materials you’d ever need for free. On a massive scale level, why not try to be THE company that collects unwanted plastics from companies around the world. Specifically in the 5 countries mentioned by @MTF. Difficult? Of course. Impossible? No. Make it easier for them than just throwing it in the rivers that lead to the oceans. Otherwise, as stated before, you would need literally everybody to collectively care and sadly too many are of the opinion that “it isn’t my problem because I’ll eventually be dead”
     
  24. timmy
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    timmy Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I previously did some exploratory research in this sector. Didn't follow through for many reasons.The hurdles with recycling plastics are many. IMO you solve these issues ..... then expotential growth is certain.

    1/ ...There are many types of plastic (12 plus) If mixed they have a low value.

    2/ ... The raw material plastics cannot be separated mechanically unlike metal sorting.

    3/ ... Because of the nature of plastic some virgin pellet will need to be added to the weaker recycled stock thus increasing your cost base .

    4 / ... As most plastics are not washed high contamination prevails along with nasty odours.

    2 ... Raw material virgin plastic pellet is really cheap so this keeps it in social entrepreneurship sector.

    All hurdles but not road blocks !

    My take aways / lessons.
    Substitutional plastic recycling into bulky low value products requiring no sorting may be the best chance of a profitable venture . Boil well
    adding lots of dark dye.(hide imperfection and poor adhesion as there would be an array of plastic types) Add UV protector for outdoor use products lines .
    You would need " lots " A milk container has a teaspoon of plastic liquid. Hope this is of some use to someone. Thought provoking concept non the less.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
  25. LittleWolfie
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    LittleWolfie Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    The patent I mentioned earlier solves all of those problems

    I'm not sure about that at all. If you look at the life cycle of the plastic vs recycling it and shipping it to the first world, which does more harm? Moreover the new slik road, gives a rail connection from China to London anyway, some of which is electrified(So renewable-electric or biofuel trains could seriously dent the emissions there. This could work especially well if you could have a denser recycled material in China for shipping to western Europe for "bespoke" luxury construction or alternative use. The Bering bridge is a lot closer now as well,so it doesn't seem that crazy. as it did at first glance. Good Luck OP.
     

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