Plastic is an extremely versatile material. It is all around us and is in almost everything that we touch. Cars, trucks, trains and planes contain plastic. Electricity and electronics like our cell phones, laptops, and TVs contain plastic so that we can work, connect and relax. Clothing items and gyms contain plastic. It is also used when we buy groceries, and is even used to conserve our natural resources too. In fact, plastic often improves sustainability and is a lot more important than you may think.
By now we have all heard that plastics need to be disposed of safely and responsibly. But, why should we all start re-using, re-purposing and recycling plastics?
Firstly, recycling reduces the need for raw materials in the manufacturing process. Recycled products also require a lot less water and energy to produce. Recycling also reduces littering, air and water pollution and creates business opportunities and jobs.
You may be aware that there are many types of plastics, and that many plastics can be recycled. There are also many plastics that cannot be recycled, but that can rather be re-used or re-purposed. This is what it means to plastic responsibly.
So, if using plastic responsibly is so important, why do we use plastics and why is this material so important? Plastic is a durable material that provides protection from contamination, pests, microbes, and humidity. It reduces food waste through preservation, and it also increases the shelf life of both perishable and non-perishable food items. Without this protection, food is likely to become unusable, food waste is also a contributing factor to climate change, water, energy consumption, deforestation, and biodiversity.
Plastic can also be made lightweight and thin, which lowers our emissions since it doesn’t add volume or mass to transportation. So, in other words, the environmental impact of plastic is lower than other materials when transporting – reducing our fuel consumption, lowering emissions that are harmful to the environment and saving us money.
What you may not be entirely aware of is why the plastics industries, environmentalists and waste experts take using plastic so seriously.
Creating a sustainable planet for future generations is one extremely important reason but using plastic responsibly and recycling makes a huge difference for many other reasons too.
PLASTICS MAKE UP A LARGE AMOUNT OF SOLID WASTE:
A lot of plastic is disposed of as solid waste, instead of being recycled. Approximately 12% of waste contains plastic, this equates to about 30 million tons of plastic being disposed of annually. Unfortunately, most of these plastics are being thrown into landfills along with other waste. Given that many of these types of plastics can be recycled, sending plastics to landfills is not only damaging to our environment, but there also isn’t enough landfill space, and a lot of these plastics are ending up in waterways.
PLASTIC TAKES HUNDREDS OF YEARS TO BREAK DOWN:
Plastic takes between 500-1000 years to break down. When we put plastics into landfills instead of recycling them, they do not break down easily. Instead, they contaminate the facilities and often end up killing a lot of animals, like birds.
PLASTIC POLLUTION IS A PROBLEM YOU NEED TO TAKE SERIOUSLY:
As we mentioned, plastic in landfills is a huge problem. It’s not only a place where plastics contaminate and end up as pollution, this plastic end up entering rivers, the oceans, and other waterways. Approximately eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean annually on top of the estimated 150-million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Over 100 000 marine animals will die from consuming plastic. It’s also estimated that 44% of seabirds and 22% of fish and sea turtles are known to have plastic in their bodies. This often leaves the sea creatures to feel that they’ve eaten, and as a result, they will starve to death, leaving the plastic in their stomachs to outlive them.
NOT ALL PLASTICS CAN BE RECYCLED:
Just as many plastics that can be recycled, also cannot be recycled. Straws, earbuds, and six-pack plastic rings are amongst the few that cannot be recycled. Therefore, we need to stay far away from these plastics. Other plastics like fruit containers and medicine and vitamin containers cannot be recycled, but they can be re-used or re-purposed. There are several reasons why many types of plastics cannot be recycled, so we need to be aware when purchasing items what the materials are made from, and if they can be recycled so that they don’t end up as waste.
RECYCLED PLASTICS ARE PUT TO GOOD USE:
Plastic recycling is important because instead of ending up in landfills and waterways, it can be turned into new and useful products like clothing, vehicle interiors and more.
PLASTIC RECYCLING CONSERVES OUR NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY:
It is estimated that for every one ton of plastic that is recycled, seven yards of landfill space is conserved. This is a significant amount. By recycling plastic, 80% of the total energy that goes into manufacturing new plastic products is conserved. Manufacturing plastics involves using fossil fuels, by recycling, we reduce the amount of new plastic being manufactured, lower carbon emissions and help the environment. Approximately one ton of new plastic conserves 7200-kilowatt hours of electricity – in other words, an average household could use this amount of electricity for seven months.
Recycling, re-using, and re-purposing plastic is extremely important. Using plastic responsibly is detrimental to life on earth. If we can all reduce the number of plastics that we use, find new ways to use the plastics that we already have, and recycle plastics properly, together we can each make a small difference that will make a massive impact.
If you’re unsure on where to begin or how to recycle, contact a waste management company, or plastics collections company – they would be more than willing to give you advice and extremely happy to help you recycle your plastic waste.
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