It’s an odd term, to be sure. “Bulky Rigid.” What does that mean? Why do I care?
Well, as unusual as the word is the problem that bulky rigid plastics create is even more so. Bulky rigid plastics refer to large plastic items such as plastic lawn furniture, baskets, buckets, large plastic toys and so on. While these products are great in their initial form, they are incredibly difficult to recycle and therefore create an issue when it comes to plastic waste and the use of post-consumer recycled materials in new production.
The difficulty in recycling bulky rigid plastics is the plastic itself. Most bulky rigid plastic products are injection molded, a process wherein “virgin,” or new plastic pellets, are combined with colorant in a heating and mixing process that creates a viscous liquid plastic. The heated plastic is then forced into a mold cavity to create whatever item is being produced. This process is efficient and produces strong, durable plastic products. However, the chemical makeup of the various types of product varies greatly. This is (partly) where the difficulty in recycling these large plastic products comes into play.
Plastics with different colorants, different additives (for a different finish, for example) and other differences can’t be combined into a durable, attractive end product. The chemical differences would prevent the plastics from achieving an acceptable level of strength or appearance, and so on. Combine these chemical differences with the size and rigidity (hence, “bulky rigid”) of the initial product, and the challenges become clear.
However, while difficult, it is possible to recycle these bulky rigid items and give them a new lease on life as another product. At Rehrig Pacific Company, we’ve kept a close eye on the problem and potential solutions to bulky rigid recycling, and have made it a priority to find applications for these difficult-to-use plastics. Our solution? Find ways to turn the weaknesses into strengths. By analyzing our products and determining where there were opportunities, Rehrig Pacific was able to find a perfect candidate for applying the recycled bulky rigid plastics: roll-out carts.
An environmental or “roll-out” cart, aka your city trash or recycling vessel, is a piece that requires strength and rigidity but also allows for the flexibility of using recycled materials. Rehrig Pacific found an application that allows for sustainable construction with virtually no downsides. The carts consist of 40% recycled material, still appear great, still function exactly as they should, and will still last. Talk about a small change making a huge difference.