What happens to plastics that are not recyclable?
Plastics are something we can recycle, but often struggle with. 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK and most families throw away about 40kg’s of that without putting it in the recycling bin. With plastic taking 500 years to decompose, that’s a lot of plastic just lying about in landfills.
As far as waste goes, as humans we aren’t great at controlling or decreasing it. Because of this, we are hurting our own planet. Recycling is one positive way to combat this. Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are released from the rubbish we pour and fill into landfill sites. By recycling we are putting less into those sites, reducing the amount of pollution that is damaging our natural environment.
Some plastic can’t be recycled, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t do something about it.
But for those plastics that can’t be recycled, what happens to them? Most of the time they’re just allowed to rot in landfills. With plastic taking 500 years to decompose, that’s a lot of plastic just lying about in landfills. Meaning we have thousands of years’ worth of pollution seeping into our water and soil.
Other unrecyclable plastics are carrier bags. We use them nearly every day on our way back from the supermarket and most of the time they collectively end up in an even bigger plastic bag under the sink. It’s estimated that over 100 million carrier bags are floating about in the ocean. Slowly polluting our sea and endangering marine life.
Plastic is difficult to recycle as it is easily contaminated, making it unrecyclable. Different plastics have different chemical compositions and mixing the types leads to contamination. Even things like paper and ink can cause damage to the plastic that would otherwise be re used. The process of separating the different plastics as well as the separation of plastics to non-plastics is right now to labour intensive to put into action.
All is not lost however, because when we do recycle plastic, we are helping. Slowly recycling is on the up, with a lot of EU nations recycling up to 50% of waste, a lot of that including plastic.
Some parts of the plastic we can put in our recycling bins can’t be included and some things we think can be recycled can’t be. This is important to know as we want to increase the amount of plastic being recycled.
The labels may have the recycling symbol on them but not every part of a plastic bottle can be recycled. Bottle caps that are a hard plastic or twist off cap can’t be recycled. They are made from polypropylene or plastic and should be taken off before tossed away. The labels that go around the bottles should also be placed in general waste as well as the caps. These can’t be recycled and could contaminate the plastics that can.
Take away containers cant be recycled. The food has already contaminated the plastic and should be put with general waste.
As stated before, carrier bags do not recycle but should be used less.
Plastics are a difficult waste or us to combat. But by recycling what we know we can, we are helping just that little bit more.