According to The Guardian, over 480 Billion plastic bottles were sold in 2016, this figure is up from 300 Billion sold a decade ago in 2006 and is due to rise to 583.3 Billion at the end of the current decade in 2020. The massive amount of plastic that’s being produced has created an environmental crisis as discarded plastic waste ends up in waterways and oceans. The discarded waste has created patches of plastic the size of countries are being formed in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the largest of which is in the Pacific ocean and is 3 times the size of France. This plastic waste is often eaten by Birds, Fish and other organisms and then makes its way down the food chain where food, contaminated by plastic is eaten by humans.
The importance of recycling cannot be overstated, in the UK the amount of plastic that ends up being recycled is under 50%, in the U.S the figure is lower than 25%, much of this plastic waste ends up in landfill sites and incinerators. These figures are often shockingly low for developed countries where there is little to no infrastructure available which leads to communities dumping waste in their nearest river.
European and American recycling rates are shockingly low and it’s largely down to the public’s understanding of what can and cannot be recycled, it can be confusing as there are over 50 types of plastics after all. Though nearly all types of plastics can be recycled the extent to which they can be recycled depends on whether the technology or infrastructure is available in your region or country.
Recycling collections in the U.K and most of Europe focus mainly on certain packaging types, most commonly plastic bottles as they are significantly heavier than most other plastic types making them easier to sort. After it’s been sorted and broken down into a usable state it can be used by the Polymer industry again to create new products.
According to the British Plastics Federation, the production of polymer products from recycled plastic goods requires 75% less energy in place of virgin materials. Thus giving a reduction in production cost without compromising the quality of the product.
Consumer research has also shown that consumers overwhelmingly prefer goods made from recycled materials.
Given that there is a huge amount of evidence to support the use of recycled polymers in the production of new products and that the consumers largely support this move it’s easy to see why many large companies such as Coca-Cola have started recycling schemes and have started using recycled polymer in their products.
It is indeed true that one man’s waste can be another man’s treasure.