So that is a short intro to our common plastics. What struck me when looking for this information was that plastic and plastic recycling in particular is a total minefield. Not all plastics are labelled, not all labelled plastics are recycled. And whats more is there is a VAST difference between the recycling provided across the counties of the UK.
There is no regulations or standardization of recycling in the UK. As far as I can find out there are no Government owned recycling facilities. It seems having good recycling nearby is purely luck. What also shocked me most was that the UK has very limited capacity for recycling its own plastic and nearly 3 million tones of plastic has been shipped to shipped to China. The wake up call came when China shut its doors to this practice, mainly because UK recycling is so badly contaminated that the Chinese cannot recycling it – leaving them tonnes of our plastic waiting for landfill.
In short, the UK needs to get a grip and start taking more responsibility for our waste.
We all know recycling is great and we should certainly do more, but when it comes to solving a global plastic crisis it might not be the answer to our prayers.
From the list above we can see that some plastics are more easily recycled than others. So should we just stick to using those plastics? The answer is yes and no – something that really surprised me is how much plastic degrades as it is recycled; on rare occasions PETE might be recycled 10 times but it is only a matter of years before all plastic eventually ends up destined for landfill.
This is where the facts and figures get a bit scary – plastic does not degrade for between 500 – 1000 years. In fact we don’t actually know how long it will take, because it hasn’t happened yet. What we do know about (thanks David) is the environmental issues relating to what happens while we are waiting for it to ‘just disappear’, that is the next step in the journey.
P.S if you are unsure about the recycling in your area I would really recommend searching the Recycle Now website: www.recyclenow.com