Plastic pollution is big news, polluting the world’s open spaces, rivers and oceans. This article will take a look at 7 important facts about plastic recycling, and the process of turning plastic waste into green energy.
1. Not all plastics can be recycled
A variety of different plastic types are used in packaging and disposable products today. Where materials are mixed together, such as a plastic bag featuring a foil lining, it is notoriously expensive and difficult to separate them. Some coloured plastics, like black food trays, are hard to recycle due to their high pigment content. Where plastics are considered contaminated and worthless, they are often sent to landfill.
2. The UK sends more than 50% of its recyclable waste overseas for recycling
According to a National Audit Office report published in 2018, of the 11 million tonnes of plastic waste produced by the UK in 2017, though the UK reported recycling 75% of this waste, over 50% was actually sent overseas. The reality is that much of this waste ended up in the ocean or landfill.
3. Plastics are increasingly used in the construction industry
One sector where plastic waste is unavoidable is in the construction industry.
Some plastics have great longevity. Plastic products offer structural integrity, do not corrode like some metals, and are light and inexpensive. 20% of all plastics are used in the construction industry. Many of these products can be reused or recycled. Plastic recycling is becoming more common throughout the construction industry.
As Chairman of award-winning construction company the Mid Group, Sahel Majali has a keen interest in recycling and waste recuse in the construction industry.
4. More people in the UK are recycling than ever before
Not so long ago, most UK waste was sent to landfill. Today, British households sort through their waste before it is collected, with some local authorities imposing fines on households that fail to do so.
In England between 2000 and 2009, household recycling increased by 235%. The UK government is committed to meeting recycling targets set by the EU through a variety of initiatives.
5. We can turn plastic waste into green energy
In the EU today, 31% of plastics go to landfill, but a new recycling innovation could drastically change this statistic. Cold plasma pyrolysis offers the potential to convert waste plastics into clean fuels. Find out how the process works by taking a look at the embedded PDF below.
6. The Great Pacific garbage patch contains more than 80,000 tons of plastic
This equates to 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. Some plastic retrieved from the patch dates back more than 50 years. The UN estimates that our seas contain more than 46,000 pieces of plastic for each square mile of ocean.
7. The good news is, it isn’t too late
We all have a part to play in eliminating plastic waste. From preventing littering and effective recycling to supporting companies that use sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, there is a lot we can do to prevent further damage to land and sea environments.
The Plastic Pact was established by UK supermarkets to eliminate unnecessary packaging, ensuring that, by 2025, supermarket packaging is composed only of recyclable materials. The UK government recently banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics and imposed a 5p charge for plastic bags.
The ability to convert waste into energy marks a seismic shift in recycling, steering us away from a throwaway culture with waste shipped off to other countries. It could change the way we look at products that have come to the end of their lifecycle as ‘waste’, instead acknowledging them as materials with huge energy-generating potential.