The more waste we can recycle, the longer critical commodities will last. It will take a massive effort to come up to speed in this long-neglected area, but doing so is an existential necessity, explains Stephen Leeb, editor of The Complete Investor.

For investors, the good news is that there will be enormous gains in companies that can establish critical footholds. One of them is Eastman Chemical (EMN), which we are adding to both our Growth Portfolio and Income Portfolio.

A few statistics suggest the scope of the waste problem, particularly within the U.S. In this country we currently recycle about 32% of our waste, compared to 40% to more than 50% in most European countries.

A bit more than 50% of waste in the U.S. goes into landfills. The rest is sent to recyclers or to waste-to-energy facilities or is deposited in compost bins. Plastics are particularly notable: Only around 5% of plastics are recycled.

The fastest-growing source of waste is e-waste — containing copper, precious metals, and more — of which less than 20% is recycled. About 40% of food is wasted, making it the largest category of waste. For major metals, recycling rates range from 34% for copper to 76% for lead.

One company that stand to benefit from the deplorably low rate of plastic recycling is Eastman Chemical. Their focus on recycling will benefit the company and should make it a superior long-term performer.

Among the companies in this area, Eastman is smaller, meaning recycling will have a greater impact on the bottom line. Even more important, the company has made a long-term commitment to a circular economy, in which materials — and especially plastics — can be reused almost without limits.

Eastman is a descendant of the once-great Eastman Kodak, with a history of more than a century of innovation. The company has four divisions: additives and functional products, advanced materials, chemical intermediaries, and fibers.

All are notable for proprietary innovative features. Eastman’s commitment to recycling began in earnest toward the end of the last decade. Today in addition to its multiple mechanical recycling methods, it’s the world leader in molecular recycling, which literally recycles plastics molecule by molecule.

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