Plastic Recycling vs. Manufacturing Costs


In general, the cost of recycling can vary depending on the location of the landfill. Additionally, the cost of cleaning plastic wastes can drive the cost of recycling. This paper looks into the cost-effectiveness of recycling plastics as compared to manufacturing new plastic products. Also, the paper looks into situations where recycling can be considered more expensive than dumping. Furthermore, the paper looks into the cost-effectiveness of recycling plastics in the United States as compared to recycling plastics in China. Moreover, the paper compares the cost of recycling plastic in two states in the United States. Statistics collected show that recycling is more cost-effective than manufacturing new products. Also, the findings show that the rising costs of petroleum and transport can make recycling more expensive than dumping. The paper also finds that recycling is cheaper in China than in the United States. This is mainly attributed to cheap labor and open regulations in China. Finally, the paper shows that the State of Carolina is more cost-effective in its dealing with waste management than the State of Georgia.


The plastics industry gained dominance in the 19th century when the need for its products started surging in the industrialized world. However, its need has overwhelmed the globe in the 21st century where it has become part of human life. For example, in 2012, the United States produced about 14 million tons of plastics for containing and packaging purposes. It is about 11 million tons from durable goods that used for appliances, and about 7 million tons from nondurable goods that are used for manufacturing plates and cups (EPA 1).

Plastics are produced from petroleum. Crude oil has become the driving force of the world’s economy since it leads to the production of numerous products, which range from mattresses to plastics. However, the rising cost of oil has also increased the cost of manufacturing new plastic products.

Additionally, oil prices have also worked to increase the cost of recycling plastics subsequently since the cost of virgin plastics has also risen sharply in the recent past. The cost of resin pellets has also increased sharply in the past decade by about 25 cents per pound. In essence, the cost of manufacturing is becoming increasingly reliant on the cost of oil. Moreover, the cost of dumping is also increasing, especially in densely populated areas. This gives way for the recycling of plastic products as the most cost-effective method

Is the recycling of number 2 plastic more cost-effective compared to the manufacturing of new products?

Plastics are significant in people’s lives. Plastics are utilized to make various products such as toys, which are used daily in homes. Moreover, the application of products made from plastic increases daily. In the United States alone, plastics are estimated to comprise more than 13% of solid waste from the municipal waste stream and show a tremendous increase from the records in the 1960s. In the 1960s, plastic wastes represented less than a hundredth of waste disposed of. However, the current rise in records shows the importance of recycling plastic wastes. Statistics show that a large percentage of varieties of plastic wastes are derived from items such as soft-drink bottles, among others. Additionally, durable products such as household appliances are also made from plastics. However, disposing of plastic wastes has been quite challenging since they are not biodegradable. Therefore, recycling these non-biodegradable plastics remains a challenge to all the involved stakeholders (EPA 1).

Plastics are classified according to their codes for recycling purposes. Plastic number two is also known as HDPE (high-density polyethylene). Plastic number two is widely used in the manufacturing of toys and detergent bottles, among other products. Since it is possible to recycle HDPE, the rate of recycling these plastics has been quite high. Records from EPA (1) show that more than 28% of number two plastics were recycled in 2012 alone. The information above shows that recycling of plastic number two has increased tremendously in the last 10 years. It should be noted that only plastic number one registered a higher recycling percentage (31%) than plastic number two in 2012. The leading deterrent in the recycling of plastics has been the high costs that are associated with this process. However, compared to the other alternatives of plastics disposing of, recycling remains the most cost-effective option as shown in the following table. Table 1 provides an overview of the costs associated with recycling and other waste management options; such as incineration and landfill as of December 2012. Also, it shows that cost of recycling is around $ 831 per ton, which is quite cheaper than $ 3392 per ton for the old landfill process (EPA 1).

Table 1. An overview of the costs associated with recycling and other waste management options as of December 2012. Figures indicate marginal costs in $ per ton.

Costs Recycling Incineration New landfill Old landfill
Collection costs 573 667 667 667
Air-emission costs 408 73 73 73
Conventional Processing costs -150 235 235 119
Area costs 100 100
Emission processing costs 479 1319 2433
Total costs 831 1455 2394 3392

According to Fullerton (85), one issue that has raised concern is whether manufacturers consider recycling of such plastic wastes or not to be as cost-effective as compared to manufacturing new products using new raw materials. Many manufacturers have always considered the manufacturing of new plastic products to be more cost-effective than the recycling of used plastics. For instance, the cost of virgin resins is 40% less than the cost of a recycled resin. This shows that if environmental factors are not considered, the cost of recycling is not as cost-effective as manufacturing. Moreover, manufacturers think so because of the amount of profit they would earn on recycling as compared to manufacturing. On a wide scale, recycling is relatively cheap as compared to manufacturing. However, the profit earned on recycling is lower than the profit earned in manufacturing. The selling price for recycled plastic products is lower than that for manufactured products. Also, the market for recycled products is less competitive as compared to that of new plastic products.

In performing a cost-benefit analysis of recycling in the U.S. it has been found that recycling is very expensive as compared to disposing of plastic wastes. For instance, records from San Jose show that the cost of recycling each ton is $147 while the cost of disposing of them in landfills is $28 for each ton. This shows that recycling is expensive when its effects on the environment are not put into consideration. Besides, Atlantic County in New Jersey has also realized that they make losses each year in recycling. For instance, the cost of selling recyclable products in 12 months brought $2.45 million, which is quite low as compared to the cost of recycling which used up more than $3million. The cost of recycling is incurred through collection, sorting, and transportation. Besides, the cost of running recycling facilities also adds up. When these overheads are summed up, the cost is quite high. I addition, the selling price for recycled products is much lower than the selling price for new products. Therefore, when manufacturers consider the amount of profit they would earn on recycling as opposed to manufacturing new products, they opt for new products. Furthermore, unlike using raw materials, old plastic materials will need more cleaning to process them into other plastic materials. This may be considered a costly way of manufacturing new products.

Fullerton investigates the repercussion of manufacturing new plastics as opposed to recycling plastics. Plastic number two is widely accepted for recycling since they have no associated health risks with them. Additionally, high-density polyethylene is widely accepted throughout the world for recycling. It should also be noted that products obtained from recycled plastic number two are essential in society. Besides, its use helps in reducing waste products, which pollute the environment. However, when looking into the economic side of it, various aspects of cost measures are taken into consideration. For instance, the cost of manufacturing new plastic products, the cost of recycling and manufacturing products and the cost brought about by waste management. Once these three aspects are considered, then it becomes clear how to deal with plastic wastes (Fullerton 66).

As has been seen above, Fullerton notes that the cost of recycling is quite high. As mentioned above, the price tag for the recycled resin is more expensive than that of a virgin one. The disparity in the cost of resins ranges from 40% to 60%, this depends on the type of plastic. The data above alone shows that recycling is also quite expensive. Other factors that increase the cost of recycling include insufficient sources, of recyclates, location of the factory which does recycling, the cost of extracting the required recyclates from the waste stream, among others. When these factors are summed up, the cost of recycling can be quite high, in some cases; it can go above $200 per ton. As observed above, the cost of recycling can be quite high; nonetheless, Ackerman (47) notes that recycling should not be viewed rigidly as a way through which companies use waste products to produce new products. Recycling may also involve reusing of various products in other activities after serving their initial purposes. For instance, containers used to pack laundry products can be used at home for various purposes. They can be used to store pegs used for hanging clothes and other tasks. That is one way of recycling. The manufacturers can also use old plastic number two to manufacture other plastic products such as toys, among other materials. In essence, using alternative ways of recycling plastic number two wastes is cost-effective since the very little amount is spent processing the plastic while the products serve the same purpose.

Steps involved in producing plastics are quite expensive and complex. Additionally, they involve high pressures and temperatures, which are usually maintained to achieve the desired monomer. This is quite expensive and can only be carried out on is a large scale to reduce the cost of production per item. These steps include preparation of monomers from materials, polymerization, processing of polymers into resins, and production of finished products. For instance, when used plastics are used to carry pegs as opposed to manufacturing new containers. In this regard, manufacturers can mold used plastics in a form, which is required to serve other purposes without incurring very high expenses. For example, manufacturers can make pens and pegs, as well as toys from recycled plastic two products without incurring very high costs. Additionally, manufacturers need to note the fact that by minimizing pollution through plastic wastes, they would be saving the world from avoidable expenses in the disposal and management of plastic wastes.

Indeed, the coding system for plastics has also lessened the cost of recycling. PIC (plastic identification Code) codes are usually utilized to differentiate various types of polymers. Plastics can now be recycled following the code, which makes it easier for the polymers to mix. This has greatly reduced the cost of recycling since manufactures can just sort the plastics according to their (PIC) plastic identification codes before the recycling process is begun (Ackerman 41).

When looking at the cost of recycling plastics, some factors should be brought forward. One can note that plastics consume just about 4% of the world’s oil, however, it should also be noted that the world’s supplies are being depleted. This shows that the supply of raw materials is also being exhausted. Additionally, it points to the fact that the cost of raw materials is dependent on the cost of oil. The cost of oil per barrel is not constant especially given the politics and wars associated with its main sources like Iran and Iraq in the Middle East. It, therefore, goes without saying that the cost of raw materials for plastics is slowly rising which in turn increases the cost of manufacturing new plastic products. In essence, a good number of plastic products are slowly going towards the end of their lifecycle. Moreover, they go on to form non-biodegradable mountains of wastes in the waste streams. Therefore, as the prices of petroleum increase, it is becoming increasingly viable for manufacturers to recycle polymers instead of making them from raw materials.

Manufacturing new products require the use of raw materials, which are becoming expensive day by day. For instance, the cost of oil, which is the most essential source of raw material used in making plastics, is highly unstable. The table below shows information regarding the price of crude oil as reflected by NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations system). From the table, it can be noted that the price of oil is quite volatile (NASDAQ 1). Moreover, the price reflected below reflects changes within the past three months only. This alone shows how unstable the prices of raw material for manufacturing plastic number two is. The cost of manufacturing new plastics can be considered more expensive than recycling plastics because the cost of crude oil that is the prime source of materials for the production of plastic products is volatile.

Crude Oil Brent
Figure 1: Source: NASDAQ.

When considering the benefits of recycling over manufacturing, it is important to consider the relevant numbers and figures. In 2012, recycling all HDPE products would have saved the country about 1.8 million barrels of crude oil. Furthermore, opting for recycling over virgin manufacture of plastics in 2012 would have saved the country over 75 million gallons of gasoline. The energy that could have been saved by recycling HDPE plastics was enough to power over a quarter of a million homes for the duration of one year. The instability of crude oil prices in the global market makes recycling a better option as compared to manufacturing. The cost of all the raw materials that are involved in the manufacture of plastics has been on a steady rise over the last two decades. Furthermore, the energy constraints that are associated with the manufacture of plastics are a serious cost concern. The ratio of recycling energy needs to that of virgin manufacture energy needs is 1 to 3. Recycling plastics involves few processing stages and it saves more energy than manufacturing. Another alternative to recycling is using landfills to dispose HDPEs. This option comes with significant economic implications including land and environmental degradation costs. Furthermore, landfills lower the value of property within their adjacent neighborhoods. For instance, the cost of houses in areas that are near landfills is usually lower than average. (University of Cambridge 1-27).

On the other hand, the cost of recycling plastics depends mainly on the cost of producing virgin plastics, which again relies on the cost of natural gas or petroleum although to a lower extent than in manufacturing plastic. Studies from institutions like Berkeley have shown that States stand to gain in the tune of $200 from each ton if they went for recycling as opposed to disposing. In other words, manufacturing plastics costs more than recycling since it encourages dumping, which increases expenditure on finished products. For instance, in the case of Los Angeles and San Francisco, by recycling alone, they would save $200 from each ton of plastic wastes as compared to dumping. In essence, dumping would be more expensive than recycling. Therefore, recycling will not only shelve companies from the cost of manufacturing but also from the cost of dumping. Recycling is, therefore, more lucrative than manufacturing new plastic products.

When can recycling of plastic number two be considered costly as a way of managing wastes?

Even though the cost of making plastics continues to escalate, its need has also increased sharply. It is estimated that demand for plastic products has reached more than 21 times its need in 1976. United States government data has also shown that more than 7.5 billion gallons of water are bottled each year in the country alone. This shows how important plastic has become in everyday life. Nonetheless, it is necessary to consider its effect in landfills to the environment as opposed to recycling. The bottom line is, even recycling plastics may be expensive since fuel exploited for its creation is steeping. For instance, in 2006 alone, NAPCOR estimates that raw materials for making PET bottles could cost more than $4.5 billion. This amount does not include the cost of running the plant for production of the bottle. To recycle plastics, first are taken into a central place where they are assembled and sorted. Contaminants can include rocks or glass, among others. Additionally, they are washed thoroughly to ensure they are clear of any contaminations and dirt. The next step involves chopping them into flakes (Intagliata 1).

This increases the surface area for melting. After which, the flakes made out of clean plastics are dried and then melted. The next step involves filtration of plastic lava, which is got from the melted flakes. After filtration of the flakes and impurities removed, the substance is made into strands, which are then cooled and again made into pellets for sale. This can be quite expensive. Factors that are likely to increase this amount include the space available in a city. For instance, areas of dense populations charge hefty fees for dumping of plastic wastes. On the other hand, areas of scarce population charge lower rates. These fees range between $10 and $100 per ton of plastic wastes in places such as Florida. In essence, recycling of plastics can be considered costly when the factors that increase its recycling cost like transportation, processing and the cost of petroleum increase (NAPCOR 1).

Plastic recycling is quite complex since it involves a range of processes. For instance, the term plastic recycling can be used to refer to primary recycling, secondary recycling, tertiary recycling and quaternary recycling. Primary recycling is also known a closed loop recycling; this is the sage where materials are recycled into similar products. For example, recycling of aluminum materials. Primary recycling involves numerous processes, as it requires the mechanical reprocessing of a product with equivalent properties. This is quite expensive and extensive. On the other hand, secondary part of recycling results in dissimilar products. For instance, tires are converted into dissimilar products of rubber. Therefore, Secondary recycling requires mechanical reprocessing of products with lower properties since it depends on downgrading. This is also quite extensive although it is relatively inexpensive as compared to primary recycling. Tertiary recycling is mostly referred to as chemical recycling. Tertiary recycling requires that the polymer be de-polymerized back to its chemical composition. This is extensive yet again it is not as expensive as the first two. Finally, there is quaternary recycling which deals with recovery of energy. Quaternary deals mainly with recovery of energy from plastic wastes (Fisher 563-627).

Consequently, depending on the kind of recycling opted for, it can sometimes be costly as a way of managing wastes. For instance, if primary recycling is chosen using plastic number two, then the processes involved in reprocessing wastes to achieve quality products that would otherwise be manufactured originally is quite tasking and expensive. That is, the kind of plastic recycling technique is central to the cost of recycling in managing wastes. For example, if products of lower quality are required then it is less costly than when products of original quality are required. Moreover, if recycling of plastic two is done to recover the chemical composition or recover the energy, then this is slightly cheaper as compared to the recovery of original quality of products. In essence, recycling of plastics can be costly when all the ingredients of original product are required (Fisher 563-627).

Recycling of plastic materials is very important in managing waste appropriately without subjecting the environment to any form of pollution. However, there are instances when it can be considered as an ineffective way of managing plastic wastes given the associated costs. Environmental agencies have been recommending recycling of these materials as the most cost-effective way of managing them. However, there are instances when manufacturers would consider recycling of plastic number two to be costly. One such case may arise when plastic materials have been subjected to dirt. In order to recycle them, many processes will have to be undertaken, a fact that can make the cost of reprocessing to be very high. In such circumstances, the waste is best-managed using landfills (Porter 58).

In essence, the process of bringing back used products into a recyclable plastic tends to be expensive. This is likely to increase the overall cost of recycling and hence making it costly as a way of managing wastes. The process of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic number two is sometimes quite cumbersome. According to Porter (58), these processes can be complex especially when the required type of plastic is scarce as compared to the available ones. For instance, it can be quite unwieldy to find enough units of type two plastics as compared to type one plastics. This gives recyclers the additionally task of sorting and waiting for the units to be adequate for cost effective recycling within the area of production.

Recycling of plastics also depends on the location from which recyclable plastics are collected. For instance, most companies tend to collect used plastic number two and then send them to China from recycling. Most companies do this to save on cost of recycling. It therefore, means that when recycling is done in the United States then it becomes more expensive given the channels involved from collection to manufacturing of new products. The location within which recycling is done is therefore central to the cost of recycling. For instance, when recycling is done in the United States, labor costs, which range from collecting the materials as well as reprocessing costs, are quite high as compared to labor costs in developing countries or countries, like China and India (Chanda and Roy 27).

Recycling of recyclable plastic wastes poses great challenge to the industry in terms of cost effectiveness, technology and social behavioral aspects. For instance, in California’s San Jose, the cost of disposing wastes per ton is about $28 while the cost of recycling is about $ 147. This shows that the cost of recycling is quite high as compared to the cost of disposing. On technological front, recycling requires complex processes, these include collection, sorting, transportation, processing and marketing among others. These processes can be expensive especially when the required grade is inadequate. Plastic number Two includes many grades such as HDPE mixed, sorted colors, clear, white, and oversized, among others. In addition, it should be noted that recycling facilities are also expensive. Moreover, these facilities also pollute the environment since they generate large amount of toxic wastes as well as lethal pollutants (Ettehadieh 1).

Recycling of HDPE plastics can be expensive when it requires purchase of tracks and other facilities for sorting the grades of type two plastics. Additionally, this cost can go up if additional employees are required to sort, transport as well as collect the materials. Interestingly, it is worth noting that New York utilizes additional 200 dollars per ton to transport recycled materials to the recycling center as opposed to disposing these materials in landfills. Furthermore, recycling incurs additional expenses and resources in campaigns and public relations as organizations try to market recycled products. Moreover, recycling agents incur additional costs in supplying containers to households for collection of raw recycled materials. In essence, recycling can be more expensive than disposal as a way of managing waste due to its high expenditures. It is also necessary to recall that the cost of recycled resin is even more expensive that manufactured virgin plastic resin (Ettehadieh 1).

One of the most common challenges which recyclers of plastic number two face include the cost of producing recycled resins from the wastes. This is usually difficult because of intrinsic immiscibility. At times, this process requires blending with virgin resin, which is again expensive given the cost of collecting and reprocessing wastes. Moreover, purity of recycled plastic wastes is also an important factor in blending. Again this requires sorting of the highest order, which is quite expensive. Additionally, expenses involved in purifying plastic wastes are quite high. This makes it expensive to recycle plastic number two as a way of waste management (Thompson, Moore, vomSaal, and Swan 2153-2166).

Reuse of materials is a useful way of waste management. Moreover, reducing on material use also helps to save the amount of materials usable. In addition, it saves from poor disposal of usable materials. Besides, reusing and reducing materials utilized in households is sustainable and environment friendly. According to EPA, the average waste created by an individual has increased to four and a half pounds each day. This is quite high as compared to Japan where the average waste created in about three pounds per day. Reduction of raw materials for making plastic products is therefore essential in reducing cost of production as well as reduction in waste disposed. Therefore, it can be noted that when the two methods are compared, the recycling becomes quite costly as compared to reducing source or reusing. However, it should be noted that the rate of reusing materials depends mainly on consumer taste. Moreover, ultimately, these materials have to be disposed or recycled. Therefore, as much as recycling can be costly, it has to prevail after reuse of materials.

Other ways in which recycling can be considered costly as a way of managing wastes include the amount of air pollution and traffic that it causes in the roads when tracks collect and transport recycled materials. The tracks numerous tracks collecting recycled products for curbside recycling minimize the environmental gains through air pollution. However, to tackle this, recycling facilities should be placed in close proximity to the collection center. This method is also difficult, especially in United States’ cities where land valuation is massive. In essence, storage facilities in the cities would also increase the cost of recycling tremendously. Interestingly, research on environmental emission that comes about because of curbside collection, showed significant amount of substances, which pollute the environment. These include sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, among other gases. This shows clearly that recycling can also be costly as a way of waste management. The figures above also show that recycling is costly around urban centers as opposed to rural areas (Ettehadieh 1).

Recycling can also be costly to the environment if quantity of hazardous wastes produced by facilities are taken into consideration. Additionally, traffic congestion, noise and litter would also contribute to environmental degradation. Moreover, the number of additives utilized in recycling facilities adds to the cost of recycling as well as environmental degradation. All these contaminants like lubricants, colorants and other stabilizers are toxic. These chemicals have hazardous effect on human health. this can also make recycling of plastic materials costly in terms of health related costs for affected individuals. Moreover, in case these chemicals mix with rainwater, they can permeate into groundwater. Furthermore, these chemicals can affect surrounding biomes if they mix with rainwater. However, landfills have proven cheap; landfills provide source for methane gas, which can be converted into energy for domestic use. From the data above, it can be observed that recycling can be very costly if not monitored closely (Chanda and Roy 27).

Materials in landfills take quite long to biodegrade. For instance, plastic bags take more than 200 years to biodegrade while plastic containers take between 50 and 80 years to biodegrade. On the other hand, plastic bottle stake more than 450 years to biodegrade. Therefore, in as much as recycling plastics can sometimes be expensive, the period that plastic take to decompose is quite worrying. It should also be considered that reusing of materials and source reduction is much cheaper than recycling. Moreover, the latter is more cost effective than recycling in both economical and environmental dimensions. However, reuse and source reductions are limited since they apply only on some plastics depending on quality and durability. Statistics show that united States dispose more than 30 billion plastic bottles. This excludes other plastic wastes. The amount of plastic wastes disposed is quite massive. Therefore, less costly methods should be adopted in plastic recycling to minimize costs (Ettehadieh 1).

As shown in the paragraph above, when recycling of plastic number two requires pure resins, then recycling of plastic number two can become quite expensive. Additionally, when the place of recycling is far from the area of collection, then a lot of expenses can be incurred in recycling plastic number two. Recycling of plastic number two, as well as other types consist of many significant steps, which incur costs. These include collection of the plastic wastes from waste streams, sorting them out, cleaning, sizing and separation, among others. All the processes named above incur costs, which effectively makes recycling of plastic number two costly. In essence, achieving desired results requires close monitoring of the processes. Moreover, the process of collection, cleaning, transportation and separation can be quite expensive if the plastics are not sorted according to PIC codes or purity (Thompson, Moore, vomSaal, and Swan 2153-2166).

Compare the cost effectiveness of recycling plastic number two in the United States and China

As mentioned earlier, the cost of recycling one ton of plastic range from 147 dollars to 200 dollars. On the other hand, the cost of recycling 1 ton of plastic in China ranges between 70 dollars and 100 dollars. The market price for pelletized recycled plastics usually starts from 250 dollars but can go beyond 380 dollars depending on the competitiveness of the market. When cost of recycling is put into place, it is quite notable that recycling of plastics in China is relatively cheap as compared to recycling of plastics in the United States. This is attributed to the fact that most Chinese firms are small-scale firms while most United States firms large scale. Additionally, most united States firms that run recycling facilities are run by professionals who work in a structured way. This adds cost to the value of recycling materials made. These additional costs are transferred to the selling price of recycle plastics as observed in the prices above.

On the other hand, Chinese firms that deal in recycling do so in small scale. Moreover, those firms are usually run by households, which minimize cost. Until recently, Chinese government has done little to regulate the industry. This has also aided in minimizing costs. It is also necessary to note that labor costs in China are quite low due to the (statistics on this are mentioned in the paragraphs follow). This has also worked to reduce the cost of recycling. Additionally, it should be noted that Chinese firms utilize less overhead costs in recycling due to availability of cheap transport for recyclants from collection area to the recycling facilities. Additionally, some small-scale firms utilize manual labor in sorting recyclants as opposed to the united states where machines are utilized to do so. This also increases the cost of recycling in the United States as compared to China. In essence, it can be observed that recycling of plastic is more cost effective in China than in the United States.

United States exports over 50% of its plastics for recycling purposes. The main recipient of plastics from the United States is China where recycling of plastics are done in small companies, some of which are owned by private individuals. China has few resources; this means that imports are their main source of raw materials. In this regard, even scrap plastics; metals and paper are welcomed in China. The United States has numerous laws that guide the reprocessing of plastic wastes. These laws have made it quite expensive to recycle plastics in a cost effective manner. Moreover, a number of companies in the United States have established companies in China to help in recycling of plastic wastes. This means that it is much more cost effective to recycle plastic number two in China than in the United States (Teutenet al. 43).

China’s fast growing industry depends heavily on wastes products from other countries like the United States. For instance, China reprocesses plastic sodas into fabrics, among other items. However, it should be noted that much of the plastic wastes imported from the United States are reprocessed in primitive workshops in China, which makes it cheaper than in the United States. Moreover, the poor environmental regulations in China have also increased mushrooming of home based workshops for recycling plastic wastes. In addition, the poor regulations have also enabled low cost of reprocessing of plastic wastes in China as compared to the United States, which has tight environmental regulations. However, it should be noted that as of 2013, China increased its focus on environmental protection, which has worked to reduce import of poorly sorted plastic wastes (Teutenet al. 43).

Another aspect that has driven the cost of recycling of plastic number two in the United States is the cost of reprocessing these materials. Usually, plastics are collected in very bad conditions, additionally; they are packed and transported in poor conditions since unskilled people do parking. This makes it difficult for companies to perform the needed sorting and reprocessing as required. Moreover, there are only a few people in the United States ready to sort out dirt. On the other hand, China has many jobless people who would readily work in plastic dumpsites. In addition, many skilled people with households are ready to sort plastic wastes in order to fend for their families (Shaxson2141-2151)

Concisely, labor costs in China are cheap as compared to the United States. As mentioned above low labor costs have also attributed to cost effectiveness of recycling in China as opposed to united states. Statistics shows that the labor cost index in China as of 2013 was 107.2 while the labor cost index in United States was 102.4. This shows a sharp rise in labor costs of China. This is attributed to the strengthening of Chinese currency by about 25% and the relative increase of about 12% in labor costs. Combination of the elements mentioned above has worked to increase labor costs in the United States. However, earlier reports had estimated that labor costs in China would match that of the United States by 2015. Nonetheless, this has been overwhelmed by the concurrent increase in labor costs as well as the Chinese currency. Still, it should be noted that there exist a wide gap between the least paid and highest paid individuals in China as compared to the United States.

Moreover, since recycling of plastics is done in small scale, most individuals employed in the firms are usually family members or employees on low payments. This has also reduced the cost of recycling even though labor cost index have risen. This can be observed in minimum wage structure in china, which is 1.19 dollars per hour. In the United States, minimum wage per hour is 7.25 dollars. It can be noticed that there exit a great discrepancy in minimum wages, this results in poor payment for Chinese workers who are not in mainstream businesses (including small scale plastic recyclers). In essence, this leads to reduced cost of recycling as compared to the United States.

This has encouraged importation of poorly sorted plastic wastes in numerous containers to China. Similarly, recycling of plastic wastes has been left to sole proprietors who own workshops within China. This has also reduced regulations of recycling processes in China and hence low labor costs. With all these factors in consideration, it is only wise to state that recycling of plastic number two is more cost effective in China than in the United States (Shaxson 2141-2151).

HDPE is well known for its ability to be can be readily recycled after PET. Type two plastics have been recycled in the United States for more than a century. However, most recycling plants have revamped their processes only recently. However, it should be noted that the cost of recycling has been increasing tremendously in the United States. For instance, labor costs have soared as workers push for higher pay to keep with the high standards of living in the country. Statistics from California show that, in recycling of plastics used up about $147 while disposal used up only $28 for same amount of plastic wastes. Additionally, Harvey claims that the county of Atlantic in New Jersey utilizes over $3 million to recycle plastic wastes. This amount is much higher than the $2.45 million the county receives from selling recyclable plastic products. This data gives a perspective of the cost of recycling in the United States, which is quite high because of the high overhead costs. This also shows that even though some States like South Carolina records profits in recycling plastic products, other States like New Jersey find it difficult on their economy. However, proponents of recycling plastics argue that the environmental factors associated with recycling of plastics are more beneficial than the extra costs incurred by the States that make losses in their bid to encourage recycling in the United States (Ettehadieh 1).

China on the other hand has recorded increased participation in recycling of plastic products, which is usually done in sole proprietorships. Most Chinese firms are family owned and the families enjoy cheap labor costs, which further reduces the cost of recycling. The only worry in China is the cost of transporting plastic wastes from western countries to the Eastern nation. China is considered a processing center for the world’s plastic wastes because of cheap labor (Cooper 265-280).

However, things are expected to change as China pursues its green fence policy aimed at cracking down on improperly mixed plastic wastes. Millions of containers have been turned back during this crackdown. This has increased the cost of recycling. In fact, the prices of resin pellets have risen sharply because of this. Nonetheless, China is still recycling plastics at a lower cost than in the United States. It is estimated that more than 7 million tones of plastic wastes were exported to China form Western countries in 2008. This trend has continued with expectations showing a rise in export of plastic wastes to China. This trend alone shows how China has advanced as a hub for recycling plastic wastes. The statistics shows above would not work if recycling were cheaper in the United States than in China. It therefore follows that recycling in China is more cost effective than recycling in the United States (Jefferson 1-25).

Compare the cost effectiveness of recycling plastic number two in two states in the United States of America

It is estimated by REI that United States’ gross in recycling industries amounts to over $236 billion yearly. This makes it comparable to other industries in the country. This shows that although the country exports much of its plastic to China, it does enough to show its ability to recycle its own plastic wastes. Different states have varying regulations on recycling of plastic number two. This can bring differences in cost effectiveness. However, it should be noted that all the states try to apply the federal government’s policies on recycling of plastic number two. For instance, the State of South Carolina has made tremendous steps in recycling of plastic number two, among other wastes. In fact, The State of South Carolina is categorized ahead of the State of Georgia concerning recycling of plastics. For instance, the State of Georgia approximates that they squander more than 100 million dollars to dispose recyclable wastes worth more than 300 million dollars. This shows how far they lag behind in recycling of wastes within their streams. In fact, more fact-findings in the state of Georgia found that more than 36% of constituents of their municipal wastes are recyclable and can be used to manufacture new products (Rebeiz and Craft 245–257)

These are waste products, which can be recycled and hence reduce on the need for raw materials to produce new or alternative plastic products. However, this is quite different from the State of South Carolina where advance steps have been made to recycle not only plastic number two but also other wastes from the municipal waste stream. Further records from EPA show that more than 160,000 tons of plastic bottles, which are recyclable, are disposed in the State of Georgia yearly. Additionally, more than 220,000 tons of recyclable glass is also disposed yearly. In essence, based on the cost incurred in disposing these recyclable materials, the state of Georgia is not making cost effective measures concerning management of wastes. Studies have also shown that Georgian landfills are full of recyclable plastics. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Georgia has one of the best recycling infrastructure in the United States.

For instance, plastic industry in Georgia has been found to account for more than $9 Billion in yearly sales. Additionally, it accounts for the employment of more than 75,000 workers in the plastic recycling industry. Additionally, it should also be noted that Georgia spends more than 1.8 billion dollars annually to pay salaries and wages in recycling and reprocessing related jobs. On the other hand, recycling industry in South Carolina is estimated to cost the State more than 6.5 billion dollars in economic expenditure. Furthermore, the state had engaged more than 37,000 people in the industry by 2005. Additionally, recycling industry alone is estimated to have contributed tax revenues of about 69 million dollars. This industry is also estimated to be growing at a rate of 12% yearly. It is also estimated that South Carolina would save more than 30 million dollars if they could recycle all the recyclable materials in the municipal waste stream. The estimations also showed that South Carolina would reach economic impact of 11 billion dollars by 2010 based on its growth in recycling industry. The two states can be seen to be doing enough to show that they value recycling of municipal solid wastes. However, based on amount of solid wastes the State of Georgia disposes, the State of Carolina can be considered more cost effective in dealing with waste management than the State of Georgia (Gregory2013-2025)

States within the United States have increased their focus on recycling plastics wastes. This is notable in States of South Carolina and Georgia among others. It should also be noted that the county of Atlanta in New Jersey has pushed on with recycling of plastics despite the challenges involves such as overspending. Despite the challenges facing plastic recycling industry, it remains the best practice aimed at conserving the planet earth. Recycling reduces the number of incinerators and landfills, which have the propensity of polluting ground water, an important source of water for the US population. Reducing the number of landfills through recycling is therefore essential despite the challenges seen by economists and doctors. In fact, its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is also essential in conserving nature. In this regard, doctors should appreciate the importance of recycling even as they explore its challenges. Moreover, recycling affirms the will of people to conserve nature for future generations. This is important since nature dictates that people prepare the world for coming generations. The will to conserve nature through recycling is therefore very essential because it shows concern for nature and the need for its conservation (Kraft 15).

Clearly, recycling wastes proves more beneficial than disposal. It is also necessary to explore the consequences of increased greenhouse gasses because of poor disposal of wastes. This would bring about depletion of the ozone layer thereby exposing living organisms to dangerous rays of the sun. It would also lead to increased health-related consequences since people are already experiencing the dire repercussions of global warming. Doctors who believe that there could be better ways of disposing wastes other than through recycling should also reflect on the above-mentioned consequences. Moreover, they should also outline ways of avoiding such eventualities.

In addition, economists who pose questions on the expenses to be incurred in recycling should also consider the cost of other methods of wastes disposal. For instance, rampant landfills could be responsible for pollution of both air and water. This would have greater repercussions (in terms of the cost of treatment) than that of recycling. In essence, economists who prefer to explore the challenges of recycling should also explore the repercussions other alternatives. This would give them a better view of what is best for environmental conservation. Moreover, they should consider the dire consequences that would be experienced should the ozone layer be depleted. One would be tempted should ask if economists have the capability of conducting analysis on the cost that could be incurred if such calamities (exposure to the sun’s dangerous rays and pollution of ground water, among others) occurred. In addition, it is necessary to consider the amount of healthcare facilities that would be required to react to pollution of ground water across the US. This would create a disaster (The Kindred Association 10-23).

One cannot be blamed for exploring other options of waste disposal; however, it is important that everyone recognize the essence of recycling no matter how much it would cost. In fact, the country would rather spend more on conserving the environment, to avert the coming calamities, than exploring its fiscal benefits. One should ask him/herself if minimizing cost is better than conserving nature as observed in the State of New Jersey. Moreover, one should consider the greater need of preserving nature for future generations. Recycling of plastics is more cost effective in South Carolina than it is in the State of Georgia.


Recycling of plastics is very important since it helps to clean the environment. Additionally, other ways have come up to aid in minimizing the cost of plastic production. These include reducing the weight and size of plastic utilized in making the products. This is expected to reduce the amount of resins utilized in making plastic products, which will in turn help in reducing the cost of recycling as well as manufacturing. From the discussions above, it can be noted that recycling is more cost effective than manufacturing new products.

Moreover, it can be noted that factors such as transportation, cost of petroleum and cleaning are likely increase the cost of recycling over dumping which utilizes less expenditure. However, it should also be noted that in areas of dense population, like towns, dumping is quite expensive. Additionally, the cost of recycling in China is quite cheap as compared to recycling in the United States. The only constrain being the cost of transportation of plastic wastes to China. Finally, it should be noted that on average, recycling has enabled states in the United States to improve on their expenditure. Nonetheless, it should be noted that much is required to achieve the standards and economic benefits of recycling plastics.

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