We agree that disposable plastic that cannot be eliminated should be recycled, but bear in mind that plastic recycling has an environmental footprint of its own, requiring fuel and emitting greenhouse gases. Unlike some other materials like aluminium, plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely and the recycled product will likely be of a lesser quality than its predecessor.
Read Reuters Special Report on what they call the recycling myth: Big Oil’s Solution for Plastic Wasted Littered With Failure
Plastic recycling facts
A common misconception is that all plastic that is collected through recycling schemes is actually recycled. Recycling success depends on so many variants including cost, type of plastic, contamination and so forth. The figures below (provided by www.recycle-more.co.uk) are for collection of plastic recycling.
- It is estimated that nearly 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK (source:recoup)
- From this 1.2 million tonnes, it is reported that 440,401 tonnes is collected for recycling – an overall 37% recycling rate (source:recoup)
- There were 640,613 tonnes of plastics packaging collected for recycling in 2012 – with 440,401 tonnes reported as coming from UK households (69%) (source: Recoup)
- An estimated 13 billion plastic bottles are disposed of each year
- 65% of UK local authorities provide a collection for plastic bottles as part of their bring service (source: WRAP)
- The majority of plastic bottles are made from PET or HDPE
- Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W light bulb for up to 6 hours
- It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials (source: WRAP)
- More than 285,000 tonnes, or 6,288,502,000 (6.28 billion) household plastic bottles are not recycled – this cost local councils £24.3m in disposal costs (source: WRAP)
- Up to 40% less fuel is used to transport drinks in plastic bottles compared to glass bottles
- Plastic packaging uses only around 2% of all crude oil produced