By now, many of us are used to recycling household items like plastic bottles, paper, glass, and metal cans to reduce the waste accumulating in landfills and oceans around the globe, but what about all of the other plastic? Our homes and businesses are built with loads and loads of plastic, the kind that can’t fit in a recycling bin or be processed by the local recycling plant. Is plastic like the kind used for plumbing, air conditioning, siding, window frames, and other components of home construction just a consequence of the conveniences of modern life, doomed to one day end up in a landfill?
In the next nine months, the Center for Biological Diversity and the EPA will decide whether to categorize polyvinyl chloride—PVC or vinyl, for short—as hazardous waste. PVC is the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic polymer of plastic after polyethylene and polypropylene. Each year, over seven billion pounds of vinyl is disposed of in the United States, and less than 10% of all PVC is recycled, with most ending up in the trash. From there, the plastic breaks down into microplastics that contaminate our food, water, and air.
“They also accumulate in our bodies, potentially increasing our risk of chronic inflammation and other ills,” Consumer Reports says. “Experts say … the only way to stem the rising tide of plastic is for companies to make less of it and for recycling programs to be retooled so that more of what we throw away is actually turned into something useful.”
Old Testament prophets warn over and over of land “laid waste” as the community disregards God and “stops caring” (Jeremiah 12:11 NIV). But there is the possibility of restoration; in fact, God promises that he will restore and renew the land, turning wastelands back into thriving forests (Isaiah 41:17-20 NIV). We can be a part of that important work, through the Holy Spirit, who ignites our spirits and moves us to complete the work of God’s kingdom.
Each of us can do that in our own spheres of influence, and one company in small-town America has found a way to divert the vinyl waste from landfills, recycle it, and turn it into useful, sustainable products.
Return Polymers: The PVC Recycling Solution
For over 30 years, Return Polymers has invested in technology to change the lifecycle of rigid PVC and plastic recycling. They connect with builders, manufacturers, dealers, lumber yards, and job sites and provide containers suitable to each location for the collection of vinyl scrap. Then, Return Polymers coordinates logistics, partnering with their parent company, The AZEK Company, to process vinyl scrap and turn it into new decking, siding, cladding, and trim.
Instead of sitting in landfills, Return Polymers turns plastic scrap into a 100% recycled product that can then be used and enjoyed by families and friends for decades to come. Every product in The AZEK Company’s portfolio is made from these recycled materials and are designed to primarily replace wood on the outside of homes with building material that is eco-friendly, durable, and stylish.
Return Polymers steps into the collection and processing of PVC scrap at what looked like the end of its life cycle and makes these recycled products, manufactured by The AZEK Company, possible.
Return Polymers isn’t alone in this work. In addition to their parent company, Return Polymers is an active member of the Vinyl Siding Recycling Coalition, a pilot program of the Vinyl Siding Institute. The coalition is committed to closing the loop on vinyl recycling so that more businesses can be a part of making a difference for the future of the construction industry and the future of our planet.
They are also advocates for vinyl recycling in the Construction and Demolition Recycling Association. According to their website, “The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) promotes and defends the environmentally sound recycling of the more than 583 million tons of recoverable construction and demolition (C&D) materials that are generated in the United States annually. These materials include aggregates such as concrete, asphalt, asphalt shingles, gypsum wallboard, wood and metals.”
All of these efforts don’t happen on their own; they take bold action, confidence, and hope that a better future can be ours if we do what we can in our own backyard, or business. It takes strong leaders in every sector of our society with prophetic voices to speak truth and cast an inspiring vision for how we can change the path and care for creation, for the betterment of our planet and for a healthier future for our children and grandchildren.