Where Does All the Plastic Go?

I’m pretty good at recycling. All my paper and card – down to the price tags on clothes – is put into my recycling bin. I can put glass in there and cans too, so I do. But then I get to plastic.

More than a third of all plastic produced is used for packaging goods (in the UK) so I obviously have a lot of it. My recycling bag just has a picture of laundry detergent bottles and something that looks like Toilet Duck. So what about all the plastic that comes with food?

There are 50 or so different groups of plastics and to make things easier for recycling, the American Society of Plastics Industry developed a marking code to help consumers identify plastics. These are:

plastics.JPG

To create plastic involves a significant use of fossil fuels – including 4% of the world’s annual oil production – and a lot of chemicals.

So recycling plastic is a good idea then? Well yes, but resuing is preferable. Reusing means less energy and resources used compared to recycling, and the big contender for resuse is plastic bags. More of an issue in Europe where more people walk or get public transport to the shops, plastic bags don’t degrade well so landfills are errr full of them.

And that’s where most of the plastic goes – landfills. Including the plastic from food packaging. My recycling collection takes bottles because they’re mainly all the same type of plastic and can be recycled easily, whereas the other types cannot.

So the bottles are going in there, but what do I do about the rest?

Source: www.wasteonline.org.uk

7 thoughts on “Where Does All the Plastic Go?

  1. My council collects ALL plastics – I heard that China takes a lot of this plastic, but does anyone know what actually happens to it when (if) it gets there.

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  2. I wrote a post this week about recycling, the ins and outs and common misconceptions. The main point is that people need to be aware of exactly what their city accepts for recycling so that they can make wise choices at the market. In my life, I’m trying to avoid as much plastic as possible so as not to have to worry about whether it can be recycled or not.

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  3. Avoiding plastic is definitely the best thing to do in the first place – it’s a very confusing problem and I know it’s my website, but this post really helps!

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  4. im in year ten doing my chemistry coursework on my second draft. MY chemistry teacher has said plastic bags do not fill up land sites they do something else which is a problem. I’m struggling to find it can you help!!

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