Plastic Recycling

Author: Alistair Cook, MBA Student, Colorado State University

This case study looks at plastic recycling. The world’s production and use of plastic materials has increased hugely in the past few decades. In many economically poorer countries, the increase has been higher than the world average and waste plastics are becoming a major waste stream. The high quantities being generated and the lack of efficient end-of-life management means plastics are now posing serious threats to the environment and human health. Awareness is growing of the need to reduce plastic use, and to deal effectively with plastic waste by recycling, reusing or upcycling. Many viable plastic recycling businesses have been set up in these countries, reducing hazards of plastics, and providing a livelihood for many families and communities.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

  1. Understand the importance of recycling plastics and the real life complications in doing so, particularly in the context of countries in the Global South
  2. Understand the stages and processes of recycling plastic
  3. Learn how to do a basic life cycle assessment of a material or product and use the tool to compare options
  4. Develop a basic understanding of business economics

STUDENT ACTIVITIES

Class Activities: Consider and research the cradle to cradle life of a household plastic object. Compare the use of new or recycled plastic as a manufacturing material. 

Complete a Life Cycle Analysis for a new and recycled plastic product and compare the results.

Homework Activity: Develop a basic business plan for a recycling company in Kenya or Uganda, based on real-life case studies.

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