Plastic consumption has grown at a tremendous rate over the past two decades as plastics now play an important role in all aspects of modern lifestyle. Collection and disposal of plastic waste has emerged as an important environmental challenge and its recycling is facing roadblocks due to their non-degradable nature. There are four basic ways in which communities can offer plastic waste collection services for plastic bottles and containers – curbside, drop-off, buy-back or deposit/refund programs.
The first, and most widely accessible, collection method is curbside collection of recyclables. Curbside (or kerbside) collection is considered a low-risk strategy to reduce waste volumes and increase recycling rates. Materials are usually collected in large bins, colored bags or small open plastic tubs specifically designed for content.
Curbside recycling programs are generally the most convenient for community residents to participate in and yield high recovery rates as a result. Communities that provide curbside collection generally request residents to separate designated recyclables from their household garbage and to place them into special receptacles or bags, which are then set out at the curb for collection by municipal or municipally-contracted crews.
In this method, containers for designated recyclable materials are placed at central collection locations throughout the community, such as parking lots, mosques, schools, malls or other civic associations. The containers are generally marked as to which recyclable material should be placed in them. Residents are requested to deliver their recyclables to the drop-off location, where recyclables are separated by material type into their respective collection containers.
Drop-off recycling programs are more suitable when residents are taking their garbage to a central waste collection facility or transfer station. Such programs suffer from low or unpredictable throughput.
Most buy-back recycling centers are operated by private companies and pay consumers for recyclable materials that are brought to them. Buy-back centers usually have purchasing specifications that require consumers to source separate recyclable materials brought for sale.
These purchase specifications can greatly reduce contamination levels and allow the buy-back center to immediately begin processing the recyclables they purchase, while providing consumers with an economic incentive to comply with the specifications. Buy-back centers are similar to drop-off centers expect they pay waste generators for their items based on market values.
These programs requires collection of a monetary deposit purchase of a plastic container. When container is returned to an authorized redemption center, or to the original seller, the deposit is partly or fully refunded to the redeemer. These programs are familiar to anyone in the USA who has ever purchased a beverage in a can or bottle.