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Is “Recycling” Plastic The Wrong Choice To Make?

Added November 12, 2018, Under: Environment, Technology

Unless we are very careful or very fortunate, we all have to put up with unnecessary plastic in our lives.

Even though we may do our best to cut down on its use, it is a constant battle all the time when supermarkets, and other suppliers insist on packaging their products in this commodity.

Of course, we firmly believe that we are doing the right thing by recycling.

But is that really so?

Recently, recycling has become unsustainable

In many areas, recycling for households means throwing everything that is not actual garbage straight into the recycling bin for collection by the local authority.  These bins are a real mixture and any plastic waste could be contaminated.

Of all the plastic that comes out of your home, much of it cannot be recycled and will end up in land fill anyway, perhaps even finding its way into waterways and on to the ocean.

Recycling plastic is not a solution, it is a last resort

While other waste material is comparatively easy to recycle whether it be paper, cardboard, cans or glass,  plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely.  After just a few times, it will be discarded – and where does it go then to spend centuries degrading?

A single use water bottle will stay on the planet in some form or other for a minimum of 45 years.

What happens to my recycling collection?

When I first moved here to my English village, I used to complain about the small amount of plastic that was accepted for recycling.  But now that I know why, I appreciate the reasons behind it.  While the local authority accepts all glass, paper, cardboard, cans and foil, they only accept plastic bottles and not the lids.  We leave out crates containing our recycling and the workers on the truck that collect the crates, actually sort the items at source and post them into different compartments on the side of the truck.  When the truck reaches the depot, all recycling is checked and sorted again to ensure no contamination.  The plastic is sent on to a bigger depot where it is reduced to pellets and sold to be used to make more plastic items.

Those authorities that collect all plastic and then try to send mixed collections on to China and other destinations are now coming unstuck.  Their recycling is no longer welcome with 70% of potentially recyclable plastic ending up in landfill, in oceans or being incinerated – all putting the environment at even greater risk.

Why we have to make a better choice for the future

Something has to change – and it is not about recycling.

Current regulations tick the boxes for various authorities when they have sent on their quotas of recycling elsewhere but without any checks on where such recycling actually ends up.

Single use plastic needs to be phased out completely.  How Governments go about such a phasing out is up to them but there have been lots of different suggestions.

  • They could be banned or at the very least heavily taxed.
  • A deposit could be imposed on single use plastic bottles.
  • We know that money talks.  Paying for plastic bags in the UK has reduced their use drastically.
  • Subsidies could be introduced to encourage manufacturers and suppliers to change to options other than plastic.

Plastic straws and disposable coffee cups should be next on the list to be banned but until the manufacturing and supplying of single-use plastic is heavily penalised, nothing will change however much the consumer wishes it to happen.

It should be made as easy as possible for all of us to live a sustainable life – with the minimum amount of plastic.  Recycling is no longer the best choice nor the only choice.


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