The Problem with Recycling Plastics
Recycling conserves energy, reduces air and water pollution, limits greenhouse gasses, and decreases the number of products taken to landfills. And the great thing about recycling: You can throw your plastics in blue bins and continue with your day. Even though recycling seems easy and efficient, how come so many plastic products end up in a landfill instead?
How Does Plastic Harm the Environment?
The world relies on plastic every day. From water bottles to protective packaging, plastics make up most applications because of its flexible and durable properties. But with that, comes an environmental price: Materials that make up plastic do not exist in nature, and therefore, can not naturally break down effectively.
Although you can recycle plastic, it takes time to decompose, threatens wildlife, and spreads toxins in the environment. According to Friends of the Earth, "Chemicals derived from fossil fuel production are used to make almost all plastics - more than 99% of them." A common chemical element in plastics, petrochemicals, is a substance obtained from petroleum or natural gas. Not only is this chemical being used heavily in oil and gas industries, but plastic production as well.
What Happens After You Place a Plastic Container or Bottle in a Recycling Bin?
First, recycling services separate plastic bottles from metal, glass, and other materials placed in recycle bins. Next, they sort the plastics based on what it's made from, and then they clean any food or remaining liquids left in the bottles or containers.
Through the sorting process, recyclers take note of materials. Some plastics contain additives to the color of bottles that can easily send plastics to a garbage pile. According to Kablo, a glass water business, "Estimates show that less than 9% of all plastic produced gets recycled." There are varying chemical compositions of different plastics that if recycled together, they may become very toxic to the environment.
In addition, containers may get mixed up in this process due to labeling and contamination of two conflicting substances. For example, if a plastic bottle contains PET, polyethylene terephthalate, and the label contains a different type of polyethylene or chloride plastic, it can not be recycled or broken down. The open-loop recycling process, or process in which recyclers reprocess plastic products for a different application, lacks “closure.” This means that even though the original plastic gets recycled into a new product, the new material cannot be recycled again. Through this process, products become non-recyclable because they significantly degrade in quality.
What Types of Plastics Can You Recycle vs. Not?
You can recycle all plastics; however, some require more specific action.
The lower the SAP recycling transaction code, you can almost guarantee the plastic-type will be effectively recyclable. Here are examples of plastics that can be recycled and their corresponding code:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) – water bottles and plastic trays
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – milk cartons and shampoo bottles
- Polypropylene (PP) – margarine tubs and ready-meal trays
There are numerous practical, natural, and specialized reasons why plastic may not be reused, on top of how it was made. Here are examples of plastics that can't be recycled:
- Composite Plastic
- Plastic-coated Wrapping Paper
Plastics and Packaging
Since scientists invented plastic, the world utilized it for packaging because of its lightweight, durable, decay resistant, and inexpensive characteristics. The bigger price to pay is plastics’ impact on the earth's ecosystem.
Biodegradable materials that function durably, are maintainable, reusable, and ecologically safe will go quite far in supplanting plastics. As a business owner, choosing to buy items that use green packaging can diminish how much plastic your company utilizes consistently and helps you leave a positive impact on the climate.
At Golden Arrow, we understand attaining a high sustainability standard for all luxury packaging. We're ready to discuss your ideas to create stunning, iconic packaging that fits your company's vision and product. Talk to us today!