When the government fails to invest in polystyrene foam recycling infrastructure, more of it ends up going into landfills, which is ultimately detrimental to the environment.
Only about 19% of Australian polystyrene packaging material is actually recycled. This low number is largely a consequence of poor infrastructure and limited education about the importance of recycling this material.
There are several ways that a lack of infrastructure investment can lead to an increased amount of polystyrene waste polluting the environment.
Collection and Sorting Capability
Without adequate government infrastructure, there are not enough organised waste collection systems, which means there are not enough facilities for sorting and collecting waste. This service is vital to ensuring that plastic waste is properly recycled. The recycling process is hampered when plastic waste is not properly collected and sorted.
Recycling cannot be done effectively without government support for establishing and maintaining recycling facilities. Such facilities demand sizable investments in terms of machinery, labour and technology, and their provision cannot entirely fall on the private sector’s shoulders.
The number of recycling facilities remains small and under-resourced in the absence of government support for such initiatives. As a result, recycling capacity is reduced, and recycling rates are generally lower than they should be.
Awareness and Education
The task of informing and mobilising the populace should fall to the local government. When the federal government falls short in its efforts to inform the populace about the importance of recycling and proper waste disposal, awareness among the general public plummets, which results in improper disposal methods and an increase in contaminated plastic waste that cannot be recycled. Again, this makes it more difficult to recycle plastic.
Policy and Regulation
When the government does not implement adequate policies and regulations to drive recycling efforts and promote the circular economy, many consumers and businesses alike will fail to adopt sustainable practices because there is no incentive.
The government is thus instrumental in establishing mandates that encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and the adoption of sustainable recycling practices. This is important so that the recycling industry can grow and plastic waste can be handled more effectively.
Government support is absolutely essential to developing the market for recycled plastic products. Without this kind of support, the market for recycled plastic products may not grow sufficiently to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure.
With insufficient market demand for recycled plastic products, the recycled plastic industry will dwindle and fail to grow. When recycling becomes economically unviable, the motivation to recycle plastic and polystyrene materials decreases significantly.
Illegal dumping occurs when the government does not provide adequate recycling infrastructure, such as recycling waste drop-off points, collection points, and recycling facilities that are capable of handling the required volumes. People then end up dumping their plastics illegally, which can cause significant pollution. Illegal dumping can be reduced if recycling facilities are adequately invested in.
How Can The Government Help?
The government should invest in providing more recycling bins and collection points, as well as additional sorting equipment. Additionally, the government should support the creation of markets for recycled plastics and embark on a targeted campaign to educate the public about the importance of recycling materials such as polystyrene foam.