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Scrap Talk: Sally Houghton’s take on plastics

Following a career in education, Sally Houghton found her calling as a recycling advocate at the Plastic Recycling Corporation of California. She is an important voice at the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) and frequently speaks about the latest developments regarding plastic scrap. Houghton is one of the women featured in an upcoming story showcasing the leading ladies of the global recycling industry.

How would you describe the recycling sector in the US at the moment?

‘It is going through a lot of expansion and growth in response to greater brand commitments and public scrutiny. There is much investment and several buy outs as large corporations recognise that PCR is going to be a much sought-after commodity.’

Are you satisfied with how things are run?

‘Not really, I feel that legislators don’t understand the industry and the complexities of successful recycling and rather than take the time to do a deep dive and educate themselves they pander to public opinion and perceived environmental fixes. This is not true of all legislators, but public pressure is a powerful force.’

Plastic scrap is “hot” — though a lot of media coverage is negative. How do you view this development?

‘To a certain extent I think it is fair. Globally, the industry has not been held accountable for many years, there are some areas where that is not the case, California being one of them. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done on a large scale and I think that is starting to happen as corporations recognise the responsibility that they have in the end life of their product and that it has the potential to replace virgin feedstock with recycled materials.’

What do you think are the biggest challenges and milestones currently facing US recyclers?

‘Collection infrastructure is an issue. In California we have an outdated bottle bill that needs modernising to aid greater collection, to utilise up-to-date collection methods that reflect the realities of living in the State. I’m sure that same can be said for other parts of the world.’

Looking back on 2021, what the highlight of your year as a businesswoman?

‘The honour of being made the executive director of the Plastic Recycling Corporation of California (PRCC). It is an exciting time to lead the company.’

What women in the scrap sector do you look up to?

‘The President of PRCC, Patty Moore. She has been in the industry over 30 years and is a real driving force in PET reclamation in California. She has great vision and is a fountain of knowledge.’

Read the full article on women in recycling in this issue!

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