Recycling Plastics

I wrote about bioplastics and other biodegradable plastics and the environmental impact. And I also mentioned that you probably need to re-use paper bags way more times in order for it to be environmentally friendlier than plastic bags. That does mean that if you’re using a paper bag for a brownie as opposed to a small plastic bag, the environmental footprint of the paper bag might be more. Of course, that is mitigated perhaps by the fact it is made from recycled paper, and it can be used additionally to wipe your mouth, albeit with slight discomfort – something you cannot achieve with plastic (which probably would only make it oilier).

But here’s the news, or maybe not-so-new: Plastics can be recycled and they sometimes are but globally, less than 10% of plastics ever produced are recycled. For most countries, in most parts of the world, it is still cheaper to make fresh and new plastics than to recycle old ones. The economics didn’t work, even when we were told there will be recycling. NPR together with some other journalist outlets studied this in the US. They realised that the industry pushed for the impression that plastics will mostly be recycled because that helped to sell plastics. There are old(ish) articles discussing the cost of recycling plastics.

So let me just repeat my prescription again; let’s just cut single use plastic – cut it all out. Let us be forced to find alternatives; because as long as it is convenient to use plastics, we will pay for it – whether with money or sacrifice to the environment.