It doesn’t matter if you’re team dark meat or team light meat, we can all agree that disposable dinnerware is a blessing for your Thanksgiving host. 

Cooking is fun. Cleanup is not. 

Fear not, my environmentally conscious host. Innovations brought to you by the chemical industry can take away the guilt of single-use place settings.  

Across the country, companies such as Brightmark Energy, Vadxx and Agilyx are converting those hard-to-recycle plastics into a versatile mix of new chemicals, feedstocks, products and even more environmentally friendly transportation fuels. 

Rigid plastics, including bottles, are collected and recycled with success, but plastics such as polystyrene clamshell food containers, candy wrappers and plastic bags historically have been more of a challenge to recycle. 

Enter the chemical industry, bringing a solution to the table. 

The process is basic chemistry. The plastics are delivered for processing, contaminants are removed, and the plastics are heated, causing a change in chemical composition, and then cooled and condensed into fuels or feedstock for new petroleum-based products, such as plastic bags, bottles and containers. 

Because the molecules do not degrade in this process, it can be repeated indefinitely, creating a completely circular life cycle for a product.   

Combustion does not occur because oxygen is absent from this process. As a result, these facilities produce low or no emissions with a small environmental footprint.

The technologies for advanced chemical recycling and plastics-to-fuel have been proven and available for more than a decade, but through advancements and shifts in the market they did not become economically viable until the last three to five years. 

The global middle class is growing. Access to modern conveniences made possible by plastics is improving living standards, hygiene, nutrition and the quality of life for billions of people, but the challenge of waste management is also growing. 

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is an industry-led group working to educate, innovate and develop waste management infrastructure and drive cleanup efforts to keep plastic waste in the right place.

And innovations such as advanced chemical recycling and plastics-to-fuel are being driven by these industry leaders conscious of the impacts of pollution when waste is not managed. 

Plastics are integral to our life, and certainly a challenge of consumerism is waste. 

Fortunately, thanks to chemistry, we do not have to sacrifice the tools and products of modern society or revert to a reduced quality of life. 

Plastics made it possible for those greens in your festive cranberry walnut salad to stay fresh from farm to table, and the plastic packaging in your overnighted Amazon delivery kept those pumpkin-scented candles in one piece. 

Our holiday season festivities come full circle. That plane, train or automobile that transports you to loved ones near and far just might be fueled by the plates and forks from your Thanksgiving meal last year. 

 So, as you gather around the table set with festive disposable dinnerware, give thanks for another innovation toward a more sustainable future, brought to you by the chemical industry. 

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