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Plastics recycling - a new departure

Jim Garthe's plastic recycling system can turn a menace into an employment opportunity for millions.

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Plastics arouse passions. The technos say plastics are omnipotent; that man's future will be fully served by its miracles. The greens say, plastics have no merits whatsoever and must be un-invented. Amidst slogans of "ban plastics" and "use plastics with care", the debate rages. Keeping a low public profile, petrochemical plants keep loading sacks of plastic granules on to an endless line of trucks. The people --you, me, the rich, the poor, the savvy and the innocent are using and throwing away plastic. The most committed amongst us are startled from time to time to learn how, despite our best efforts, plastic has crept into our lives. Damage done by plastic litter is getting deeper and more widespread; we have everywhere, the surreal slow-burn of piles.

It comes as a relief therefore, that there are creative realists at work, tackling the issue without passion. GoodNewsIndia has highlighted some of their work over the years. But the work we are about to review, is on an entirely different plane-- it has the potential to end the debate and turn the problem into an opportunity-- particularly for India. GoodNewsIndia therefore makes an exception to its publishing policy and features an idea rather than a realised project; that too, an idea of a non-Indian. It does so in the great hope that this article will motivate tens of concerned Indians to bring the idea to this country. With that preface, GoodNewsIndia introduces the little-known, pioneering work of James W Garthe, a Professional Engineer at the Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Which cycle?:

Industry says that plastics can be recycled. Environmentalists disagree-- they say plastics can only be 'down-cycled' in the sense, it can be converted to a lower-grade plastic product. What then is the fact? Fact is, plastics are extracted from petro-chemicals and the most that can be done is salvage as much of the calorific value as possible out of used plastic. That is the closest possible approximation to what is known as 're-cycling'. If well done, the only objection we could have to this approach, is the one we already have against the use of petro-fuels.

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Click this for a larger image of the Garthe prototype