If recycling plastics isn’t making sense, remake the plastics

Patrick
Enlarge / Workers sort plastic waste as a forklift transports plastic waste at Yongin Recycling Center in Yongin, South Korea.

A few years back, it looked like plastic recycling was set to become a key part of a sustainable future. Then, the price of fossil fuels plunged, making it cheaper to manufacture new plastics. Then China essentially stopped importing recycled plastics for use in manufacturing. With that, the bottom dropped out of plastic recycling, and the best thing you could say for most plastics is that they sequestered the carbon they were made of.

The absence of a market for

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