The concept of recycling is everywhere in today’s society. It’s something that makes us feel a lot better about drinking that can of soda or bottle of water. They can just be recycled and made into something new, right? Not quite. With plastic, especially, recycling is not as simple as throwing your disposable straws/bottles/cups/bags/cutlery in the bin and watching them reincarnate fully into something else. Let’s debunk some of the common misconceptions with plastic recycling
Myth #1 - Recycling plastic is a common practice
While the concept of recycling is commonplace, the act of actually doing it is not so much. It may be that we don’t know where the closest bins are or we’re just too lazy to make the trip there, but the bottom line is that we’re just not recycling enough.On average, 50% of all plastic products are used just once then thrown in the trash (not recycled, thrown in the trash). In fact, currently only 9% of the world’s plastic gets recycled. Recycling can’t be a solution if it’s all just talk and no action.
Myth #2 - All plastic-based products are recyclable
In a perfect world, 100% of what we put into plastic recycling bins get turned into something new and reused, but we don’t live in a perfect world. In our world, a lot of what we intend to recycle actually gets rejected at the sorting facilities and ultimately still end up in landfills. Plastic bags and utensils, for example, are often too light and flimsy to be recycled. Plastic bottles and containers with even the slightest residual food waste in them are usually also rejected. In general, less than ¾ of what we “recycle” actually get recycled.
Myth #3 - Using recycled plastic ensures we stop producing new (virgin) plastic
While other materials like metal and paper are self-sufficiently recyclable (they can be made into new things without needing to inject more materials in the process), plastic is completely different. Plastic recycling requires melting it, which consequently degrades it. To then transform it into something new and useful, virgin plastic would need to be added into what you already have. So when you buy recycled, you’re still supporting the virgin plastic production that is creating this problem in the first place.
Whilst recycling and buying recycled is a more eco-friendly option than continually relying on products made from virgin plastic, it is still not as sustainable as refusing disposables in the first place. At its best, recycling is a decent plan B, but green living is about avoiding these fallback options by being a conscious consumer. So let’s kick single-use plastics out of our lives.