It’s a substance we use every day, that facilitates much of the convenience we experience when we shop, cook and eat. Plastic is a miraculous substance that exists all around us and seems to have limitless applications – pipes, shopping bags, containers and more. In terms of practicality, it’s hard to beat.
But this practicality comes at a price – potentially a devastating one. The waste from plastic that we throw away severely pollutes our global environment, in particular, our oceans and waterways. Throughout the world’s oceans, thousands of tonnes of plastic debris can be found floating, drifting about without breaking down or degrading, and affecting surrounding sea life.
Urban run-off is the main source of this debris – the waste we throw out of our homes. In order to solve the global pollution problem, it’s essential that serious action starts from the average person. We’ve already done damage that will be extremely hard to reverse, but it’s not too late to prevent any more occurring. For the sake of the planet that we hand to our children, it’s time to seriously evaluate the way we rely on and dispose of plastics.
The first thing to realise about recycling plastics is that it’s not an easy road. Only 5% of plastics worldwide get recycled. The reason for this is twofold – first that many types of plastics actually cannot be recycled easily. Once created, they are almost always thrown away rather than remoulded for future use. The answer to these types of plastics is difficult, as it requires a massive overhaul of the way we structure our daily lives and products. This process needs to happen, but it is still a long way off. Some local recycling plants will have the capabilities to deal with this, however, so do a little research if you’d like to recycle these.
The second reason few plastics get recycled is one of general ignorance about the topic. Many are unaware of what types of plastic they’re using, or what they should even do with them. Education is the key to this. It’s essential that recycling plastic becomes a natural part of everyone’s routine.
Plastics That Can Be Recycled
There are two main types of plastic that can most easily be recycled:
- PET (Polyethelyne Terephthalate) is the most common type of plastic, and fortunately, it’s also the easiest to recycle. Plastic bottles and containers are often made of PET, and it’s usually noted on the label if they are. This may be known as “#1 Plastic”.
- HDPE (High Density Polyethelene) is the second most common plastic, and is usually used for heavier containers such as cleaning fluid bottles or milk jugs. This may be known as “#2 Plastic”.
What To Do With These Plastics
The recycling procedure will vary according to region and council, so check to find out what the standards are in your area are. For many, it will be a separate container that is only for #1 and #2 plastics that is collected on a certain day or alongside the main trash. It can feel like extra effort having to wash and sort the different plastics, but the rewards benefit everyone.
Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous materials on earth, but it is also potentially one of the most devastating for the quiet way it has infiltrated our daily lives. While recycling certainly helps, the only real long-term solution is to cut down on consumption altogether. We need to reassess our dependence on plastic and see if we can replace it with more eco-friendly products. Otherwise, we are only polluting the earth, and ultimately ourselves.