What happens to plastic?

It is estimated that only 9% of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic ever produced have been recycled [1]. In 2015 the amount recycled was around 20%, with 25% being burnt and the remaining 55% sent to landfill or dumped [2]. But how much of this 20% was really recycled?

Unfortunately, a lot of plastic intended for recycling ends up in landfill [2] mostly, because it is contaminated, often with food, meaning it cannot be made into new products [2]. It is possible to clean the plastic and recycle it, but the high cost of the cleaning process means most waste handling facilities end up sending the plastic to landfill instead [2]. Even worse, some let it litter the countryside or oceans [2]. This is a clear example of businesses prioritising profits over the environment [2], which hopefully with greater awareness will change.

We’ll unpick the tangled world of plastic recycling much more in future posts.

References

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