Quick Guide to Open Loop vs Closed Loop Recycling

Quick Guide to Open Loop vs Closed Loop Recycling

By AAA Polymer | Closed Loop Recycling

Mar 08

Over the past few decades, waste management strategies have slowly shifted from waste disposal to recycling and recovery. Certain materials that were once considered trash (such as plastic stretch film, plastic bottles, and a range of other materials) have suddenly become a valuable commodity.

For this practice to sustain itself, recycling had to be implemented on a large scale. Governments and private businesses started to brainstorm solutions in order to create a sustainable, long term model for waste disposal. Inevitably, two systems rose to the top and became the de facto models that are used to this day: open-loop vs closed-loop recycling. 

To provide insight into the similarities and differences between open-loop vs closed-loop recycling, the experts at AAA Polymer have we've created a quick guide. Continue reading to learn more about open-loop vs closed-loop recycling, and don't hesitate to reach out to AAA Polymer. 

What Is Open-Loop Plastic Recycling?

Open-loop recycling is when recyclable materials are recycled and then converted into new raw materials and products. Often, materials that come out of open-loop recycling end up being used for purposes that are entirely different from their former, pre-recycled life. An example often used to describe open-loop recycling is the raw materials gathered from recycled plastic bottles that are then used to make fleece jackets.

Discarded plastics that are put through the open-loop recycling process are treated using three forms of treatment: chemical reactions, heat, or physical crushing. It is because of these treatments that open-loop recycled materials cannot be made back into their original purpose (i.e. you can’t make a fleece jacket back into plastic bottles). Also, when goods are recycled through the open-loop system, they are combined with other materials other than the original material.

The Closed-Loop Recycling

The traditional definition of closed-loop recycling is when used materials can be recycled into the same product repeatedly. A popular product used in a traditional closed-loop system is aluminum because it can be recycled and used in new cans with little to no material degradation or waste once it has been processed.

Closed-Loop Plastic Recycling for Commercial & Industrial Facilities

However, this process isn't always feasible or even possible for some materials. For example, when plastic is processed at recycling facilities, it's cleaned, sorted, broken down, and then remolded. This process does erode some of the key attributes of plastic, such as clarity or flexibility. 

Because of this, the definition of closed-loop recycling can be expanded to accommodate a facility's practices. Closed-loop recycling can also be used to explain when a facility recycles its plastic recyclables and then closes the loop by either:

In doing so, you'll create more of a closed loop of plastic being recycled and then plastic PCR resins being brought into your facility. 

Open Loop vs Closed Loop Recycling: Who Wins?

Whether it's open or closed-loop recycling, both processes will create a win-win for your company and the environment. By recycling, you can prevent plastic from ever entering a landfill where it can last anywhere from 200 to 400 years. And when you purchase PCR products, you can lower CO2 emissions that come from the production of virgin plastics and reduce the amount of petroleum used. 

However, the environmental benefits of either type of recycling are only the beginning. Businesses who have a commercial recycling program and take the steps to close the loop can help improve their brand image and bottom line. According to a Nielsen study, a sobering 66% of respondents suggested they were willing to pay more for products and services that are offered by companies who are committed to environmental or social responsibility. 

In addition to greater customer patronage, recycling can result in immediate savings for the business. These savings come in the form of reduced waste management costs. Simply put, when you remove plastic recyclables from your waste stream, you'll reduce the number of times your trash has to be picked up, which leads to reduced costs. 

Contact AAA Polymer for Commercial Plastic Recycling

Whether you're interested in open or closed-loop recycling, the experts at AAA Polymer can and will help. We offer more than 40 years of experience and will work closely with you to create a program that makes a difference on your bottom line and balance sheet.

Contact AAA Polymer today.

About the Author

AAA Polymer, Inc. was founded in 1974, as a plastic resin and material trading company with an innovative vision to create a company to provide plastic recycling services for industrial/commercial businesses. If you have any questions, we're here for you. Just call us at 718.389.2498.

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