10 Things People Don’t Know About Plastic Recycling
At Bright Green Plastics, we consider ourselves to be the plastic punks, fighting a good fight against the tidal wave of negative press around this versatile and life enhancing material.
In our mission to reveal the truth, and debunk many of the misconceptions put out there by the media, brands and even the government, we’ve compiled ten of the most compelling reasons why plastic isn’t, in fact, a problem at all…
1. Plastic isn’t killing our planet – it’s the recycling options and disposal routes that are.
If all plastic waste was recycled, we wouldn’t have a problem with it. So why is it so difficult to make this dream a reality?
For starters, the government isn’t doing enough to support the recycling industry in the UK. Instead of pulling out all of the stops to ensure perfectly recyclable plastic waste is funneled back into the circular economy, it’s actually rewarding exporters to ship it overseas with the outdated PERN system – where goodness knows what becomes of it.
On a more local level, authorities are inconsistent with what reprocessable waste they collect and how they collect it, which deters individuals and businesses from recycling. However, the government says plans are underway to make recycling ‘easier’ by developing a ‘clear list’ of materials that ALL local authorities and waste firms must collect from homes and businesses.
This will mean the end of ‘confusion’ for millions of homes and businesses that have different collections in different areas, helping households ‘recycle more and send less waste to landfill’ – at least 65% of municipal waste by 2035 (too low and not soon enough in our opinion).
Additionally, the government must ensure recycling firms are in a strong position to reprocess all of this additional waste… otherwise it will simply mean more plastic on container ships.
2. Only approximately 9% of plastic waste is currently recycled (but we are working hard to change this)
ALL plastic items could potentially be made from 100% recycled material. We want to make it easier for firms from all industries to incorporate recycled materials into their products and are working consistently to develop bespoke formulations to improve the standards of recycled plastic.
With our ongoing developments and partnerships, such as our recent collaboration with the University of Liverpool, University of Manchester and Unilever, we’re on a mission to ensure no plastic waste ends up in landfill or the incinerator.
3. 83% of consumers believe it is ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ for companies to design reusable or recyclable products.
Consumers care about the planet, and high numbers are actively seeking out and purchasing from brands that use ethically sourced materials and have sustainable practices. 83% of consumers believe it is ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ for companies to design reusable or recyclable products, and 72% of people now purchase more eco-friendly products now than they did five years ago.
4. Swapping single use plastic for single use paper/glass/metal will not save the planet.
Consumers are being convinced that alternatives to plastic are better.
However, paper products (often using virgin pulp from ancient forests) are more energy-intensive to produce, using more resources and emitting more greenhouse gases than the production of plastic. Glass is made from a specific type of sand that’s harvested from riverbeds and seabeds that disrupts the ecosystem, leaving shore lines open to flooding and erosion, and is being used up faster than the planet can produce it. The extraction of aluminum is an extremely energy intensive process with the energy for this process created by burning fossil fuels.
Instead of replacing, consumers should be encouraged to reduce – but we don’t see that message coming from brands trying to sell products. Funny that. Which brings us onto…
5. Greenwashing is a bigger environmental problem than plastic pollution
Greenwashing doesn’t help the environment, it simply shifts consumption from one area to another.
It’s an established (and underhand) PR tactic that’s becoming increasingly sophisticated as the public, employees and stakeholders pile on the pressure for companies to be green, which, in turn, is driving brands to claim they are being more environmentally friendly by switching from plastic to paper or glass. They’re not. Discover more on this here.
6. It is possible to arrive at a point where no plastic ends up in landfill, an incinerator or the ocean.
In 2014, Britain produced 4.9 million tonnes of plastic waste. Two thirds of that waste was packaging and only 1.2 million tonnes of it was recycled, according to a 2018 study from the Wildlife Report. Yet, most, if not all, plastic could be recycled or repurposed.
At Bright Green Plastics, we deal with Polypropylene and HDPE plastic, but other firms work with different types of plastic. Polypropylene can be recycled into brooms, brushes, plastic trays and more. HDPE is readily recycled and can be repurposed as non-food bottles, pipes, floor tiles, sheet and film plastic and more. PET can be recycled into automotive parts, plastic sheet and film, industrial strapping, fabric, carpet fibre and even athletics shoes. Rigid PVC can be recycled and turned into window frames and bank cards, whereas the flexible version can be reused as faux leather, or even insulation for electrical wiring. And when recycled, LDPE, which is used in plastic bags, can be repurposed into rubbish bags, rubbish and compost bins, furniture and more.
It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared to using ‘virgin’ materials, however, to render it even more sustainable, it is also perfectly strong, durable, waterproof and lightweight to be used, just as it is, for many other applications, such as building materials.
7. The government must do more to support the future of plastic recycling
The Plastic Tax, a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content will come into force in April 2022 to increase the demand for recycled materials and reduce carbon emissions.
However, the government must recognise that plastic reprocessing industry in this country will be ill equipped to supply the increased demand if it doesn’t do more to support it. Reviewing the PRN system will be a great start, but it also needs to do more to encourage recycling, reward brands and manufacturers that go over-and-above to use recycled plastic, and fund research and innovation.
Learn more about the PRN system, in plain language, here.
8. Recycled plastic isn’t inferior to virgin plastic
Plastic is a commodity. It is relatively easy and low impact to recycle, and can be used again and again. And with scientific developments in additives, like BrightFusion, it can retain its integrity and quality to keep on giving.
Our unique BrightFusion™ additive improves the properties of recycled plastic, enabling it to perform just as well as virgin polymers.
9. Recycled polymer isn’t just used in packaging
In fact, packaging is just the tip of the iceberg. Our team of polymer scientists are able to develop bespoke products to achieve specified physical, mechanical and chemical performance, allowing recycled plastic to be used within endless applications. This includes the manufacture of vehicles, construction materials, in horticulture and applications where only the heaviest duty material will cut it.
The development team at Bright Green Plastics has recently completed a revolutionary heavy-duty recycled polymer formula for household wheelie bins. The wheeled plastic bins used by over 60m British households must be tough enough to withstand all weathers and rough handling for at least 10 years. As such, only virgin plastic or recycled bins were the only source of plastic durable enough – until now.
10. Plastic is set to play a significant role in the future of energy, infrastructure, technology and medicine
Plastic is versatile, light, ideal for innovations across all industries and can even be 3D printed. It’s a major player in our future and it’s not going anywhere. And it doesn’t need to.
Individuals, brands, organisations and governments must understand it for the precious commodity it is, and not a disposable material to be buried, burnt or shipped overseas.