Plastic Waste

Why we can’t recycle our way out of this mess and what to do about it?

We are rapidly creating toxic landscapes and seascapes of plastic waste that will never biodegrade. National Geographic reported that oceans will hold more plastic than fish by 2050. Landfills will contain 12 billion metric tons of the stuff. More than 40% is single use packaging. All of it is made from petroleum.

Less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.

We can’t recycle our way out of this crisis because it’s more profitable to create new plastic than to recycle the old. According to reporting by Laura Sullivan for NPR, the oil industry makes more than $400 billion a year on plastic. Executives assure shareholders that increasing profits from plastic will make up for losses resulting from more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

Read Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work to find out how Big Oil has been duping us all along. These powerful global players continue to promise recycling solutions in the form of technology upgrades. They have always promised recycling solutions and have never delivered them. Their ongoing expansion of plastic production continues even as plastic waste overwhelms landfills and oceans.

So what should you and I do about it?

There are ways we can increase how much is recycled, and you’ll find some listed below. However, the most effective impact we can have as consumers is to take a stand and simply stop buying plastics that won’t be recycled.  And that’s more than 90%.

Seek out products made and packaged without plastic, or with plastic that has been recycled.

 In this manner we are ending our participation in this global crisis. We are also supporting a circular economy in which products are designed with a lifecycle that ends as non-destructively as possible. This is the economy of a more sustainable future. Check Unplastix when shopping for your essentials. We will continue to add more.

Believe in your power as a consumer.

One person makes a small difference. Together, we can be a powerful force for the planet and the marketplace.  Businesses will redesign products and packaging if the current model becomes less profitable than a more sustainable one. We can heal the planet and bend the market if enough people move away from plastics that aren’t easily recycled.

And here are some ways to increase recycling.

Understand the recycle symbols and what they mean. They basically identify different types of plastics. They do not mean that the item can be recycled by your local waste facility. You may in fact have to pay to have it recycled.

Carla Herreria Russo made it easy to interpret the symbols in How To Tell If You Can Recycle Something, In One Chart. With information from Greenopedia The Huffington Post created this remarkably simple infographic.

Interpreting recycle symbols

Check with your local waste management company to find out if they can take #4 and #5. Don’t engage in wishful recycling by tossing all plastics into the blue bin. Plastics that can’t be handled by your local waste management can contaminate batches and make it difficult or impossible to sell recyclables to other companies in this complex economy.

Consider these options for waste your local system can’t recycle

Use this remarkable website to find out what can be recycled in the way of plastic bags and films; and where to take them in your locale.

When it’s time to throw out your shampoo bottle, toothpaste, cosmetics, or any other plastic you local garbage people can’t recycle check out Terracycle. Many brands partner with them and offer free ways of getting their empties recycled. Click here and search by brand.

They also offer paid recycling solutions. You select a plan and purchase a collection box which they will then pick up, sort, clean, and recycle.

This is another company that offers a paid solution. For a monthly fee you receive a collection box and guidelines on what you can and cannot put in it. They pick up and do the sorting, cleaning, and recycling. Ridwell is currently operating in some cities in CA, CO, MN, OR, TX, WA, with plans to expand.

These are just a few solutions to a growing crisis.

If you know of others please leave information in Comments. Meanwhile, switch to Unplastix whenever it’s time to replace an essential. And consider planet-friendly gifts you can give to friends and family.

It’s going to take a rising wave of planet-loving humanity to clean up this plastic mess.

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