Plot Twist: Goodbye Lasers. Hello Plastics.

Dear Mr. Morrow,

As you know, I left my lasers in Illinois and kissed graduate school goodbye about 18 months ago. I spent a little while trimming the lawns at our Alma Mater, but for most of the intervening time I have been working as a some sort of chemist/engineer at a facility that recycles polypropylene (#5 plastic).

I work in a plant where ground up yogurt containers, McDonald’s cups, peanut butter labels, rope, and other diverse forms of polypropylene waste are melted down and mixed together to make small black pellets that we ship out in tractor-trailers. Our customers melt these down at their factories and squeeze the melted plastic into molds to create funnels, car ramps, concrete form ties, and other items.

Before I started working in the recycling sector a year and a half ago, I didn’t have a clear idea of how the plastic, glass, metals, and paper I put by the curb each week were transformed back into useful materials once again. There are still many parts of the process that I don’t understand. But I’m learning more every day. I’d like you to join me this year as I learn more about how recycling works and how we, as consumers, can be good stewards of the plastic in our lives.

I don’t expect my growth in knowledge to be chronological with respect to the plastic lifecycle, so be prepared for a bumpy ride with lots of backtracking. But I think there’s a good chance that it will be fun, all the same.

I hope you had a great new year!

I’m off to play a board game, so I’ve gotta go. Have a marvelous evening.