Op-Ed: Improving How We “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” Through Innovation

Written by: Tino Quintanilla, President of Thermo Plastic Technology Inc.

Just in time for the arrival of summer, we warmly welcome the gradual reopening of New Jersey’s business community as we work toward rebuilding our damaged economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

We also welcome smart policies by our legislators in Trenton to help promote the growth necessary for the economy to fully recover – policies that exclude the proposed ban on single-use plastics and polystyrene food containers.

As the president of Thermo Plastic Technology, a manufacturing company based in Union, I can attest to the sanitary benefits of single-use plastics and polystyrene containers as well as the importance of these materials in packing, shipping and storage.

Since 1989, my company has helped support the local economy through employing 60 workers who mold thin and heavy gauge plastics into thermoformable materials such as PET, PP, Styrene, ABS for service trays, packaging for cosmetics and cosmetic gift boxes using recycled materials both post-consumer and industrial, blisters, clamshells and assorted packaging for many industries.

We also manufacture reusable ABS mail trays, hotel trays and an assortment of Point of Purchase displays for retail.

Given the “new normal” in which we are living amid the pandemic, it surprises me that lawmakers in Trenton would consider a proposal to ban single-use plastics and polystyrene when products made of these materials are in higher demand.

I imagine these products are more important than ever to the food industry, which has primarily survived the pandemic by only offering take-out meal options served in single-use containers and will need to comply with more strict public health and sanitation guidelines.

On the other hand, I also understand the environmental concerns with the prevalence of single-use plastics and polystyrene in landfills. That’s where I believe we need to look at the root cause of the problem and identify common-sense solutions as opposed to randomly proposing one ban after another on materials essential to our day-to-day lives.

We need to focus on our recycling infrastructure and how it can be modernized in a way that promotes a more circular economy while reducing the amount of single-use plastics and polystyrene packaging that ends up in landfills.

At Thermo Plastic Technology, we are committed to strengthening the circular economy through innovation in recycling and sustainability to ultimately ensure no polystyrene items end up in our landfills. We engrave tools with the recycle logo so consumers are reminded that these materials are recyclable.

We are actively working with companies that are in the process of bringing fully biodegradable materials to market and when the supply chain is viable we will be offering these materials to all of our clients, letting them know they have a source for 100% biodegradable plastic.

We have invested heavily to make sure all scrap/waste the bi-product of production from all of our lines are collected and processed for recycling. We then sent out this material to be reprocessed back into our supply stream.

As we become accustomed to living in a world with coronavirus, it will be more important than ever to identify the right balance between our use of single-use plastics and polystyrene products for their sanitation benefits and minimizing their impact on the environment.

Improvements to our recycling system will be critical to striking that balance, which should be the focus for lawmakers moving forward.