Commentary: Addressing plastics in the circular economy
For manufacturers, the circular economy can reduce certain costs. For example, in 2020 the Washington-based Association of Plastic Recyclers released a study comparing energy profiles of the environmental burden of virgin resin versus recycled resin. From the study, comparing just the expended energies of recycled polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene and polypropylene shows the virgin plastic expended energies for these materials are 1.7, 3 and 3 times the expended energies of their postconsumer recycled plastic counterparts, respectively.
That is, it takes more energy to produce virgin resin from raw chemicals than it does to create postconsumer recycled resin that can be reused in one form or another. Using more recycled content—which manufacturers may be able to do using their internal processes—rather than buying virgin resin can cut costs and ultimately has a positive environmental impact.