Guest Writer: Liam McRedmond
‘Environmental crisis’ was the buzzword on everyone’s tongue until the Coronavirus swamped all other headlines. Whilst the press coverage may not be quite what it was a year ago, now remains as crucial a time as ever in fighting the good fight by continuing to play our own crucial roles in protecting our planet.
For most of us, the fight starts by rethinking our relationship with plastic. Like any toxic relationship, the co-dependency we’ve unknowingly fostered only winds up hurting ourselves and others in the long run. So whether you want to divorce yourself from plastic entirely or just introduce some distance, it helps to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Here’s some of the biggest misconceptions about plastic waste.
The increase in single-stream and dual-stream recycling systems at the tale end of the 1990s is responsible for the radical uptake of plastic recycling worldwide. This is nothing to shrug at. But it also continues to pose significant problems as consumers adopt a trigger-happy approach to recycling. In fact, almost a quarter of everything consumers recycle can’t actually be recycled. The contamination of recyclables is an issue that should not be overlooked. It wastes resources, puts the health of works at risk, and greatly hinders the recycling process. Of course, a lack of transparency in terms of what actually happens to your waste contributes to this issue.
Low-grade plastics – like the black plastic used in most microwavable food packaging – are often mistakenly thrown in the recycling. As a rule of thumb, make sure any plastics you recycle are clean, see-through, and soft. If in doubt, check with local authorities what can and can’t be recycled. Though we may have the right intentions, throwing everything and anything into the recycling can in fact have an adverse effect on the planet.
Many disposable products we use are made of a combination of different materials. Does this mean you can’t recycle them?
Perhaps surprisingly given the previous point, no! Recycling plants are more adept at dealing with products made from multiple materials – including different types of plastic, resins, and metals – than ever before. Plastic windowed envelopes and paper clips, for example, can be recycled thanks to industrial-grade heaters and magnets.
Whilst it is true that some materials like glass and aluminum can, in theory, be recycled indefinitely, the opposite is true of plastic. Most plastics can only be recycled two or three times. So don’t fall for the marketing ploy of recycled plastic water bottles - they’re headed for landfill sooner than you think!
Because the recycling of plastics is more of a band-aid than a legitimate solution to plastic pollution, it’s important that those plastics are recycled into something built to last rather than simply winding up as more water bottles. WRAPTIE™’s commitment to using recycled plastic in the production of our high-quality straps and footwear ensures that your adventures are truly sustainable. Our intelligently designed, durable products rewrite plastic’s destiny for landfill and ocean-dumping so that you make better choices about how you experience the outdoors.
Soft plastics are used predominantly in the production of carrier bags and wrappers. Supermarkets often have carrier bag collection points, but few of us realize that these also accept most other types of soft plastic used in packaging. Be sure to take along frozen food bags, bread bags, and even bubble wrap when headed to your local carrier bag collection point.
Since this is the case, you’d be forgiven for wondering, ‘why can’t I just use plastic bags if they can be recycled?’
As mentioned, recycling plastic is not the permanent solution to plastic pollution. Plastic used to produce carrier bags will inevitably be taken out of the recycling process and dumped at some point. Instead, consider using string bags for grocery shopping. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should throw away all the bags you have amassed over the years. After all, plastic doesn’t degrade for at least four-hundred years, so you’re better off keeping any bags around for daily use rather than having it wind up on an ocean floor somewhere!
‘Biodegradable’ is a term regularly thrown around by companies to describe the plastic used in their products. It implies the material degrades into nothing over a short amount of time, but recent research raises serious doubts about such claims. Not to mention, the jargon is deliberately misleading – ‘biodegradable’ is not the same as ‘oxo-degradable’, nor are either of the terms equivalent to ‘compostable’.
Many plastics marketed as such are simply plastics mixed with plant materials. This means that when they do break up, the plastic elements become micro-plastics, which are extremely harmful to water supplies, soil, and marine life. Even if carrier bags, for example, are deemed ‘compostable’, don’t expect these bags to disintegrate in your garden compost heap. These materials require specific industrial-grade treatments to trigger degradation, and, since 91% of plastic ends up redirected into oceans or landfills rather than the appropriate treatment facilities, the supposed benefits of such alternatives are doubt-worthy at best.
Mass production of plastic began in earnest only in the 1950s, meaning plastic pollution is still a relatively new phenomenon. The extent of damage that it has done globally in such a short amount of time reminds us that the time for action has only ever been right now. As powerless as we might feel, we can at least be accountable for ourselves and our own consumption habits. As consumers, we can choose to make sustainability and transparency a priority and therefore be more conscious about the plastic products we buy and use in our everyday lives.
At WRAPTIE™, we proudly play our part by using recycled plastic to make durable products purpose-built for long-term use. For more information on how you can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, check out One Brown Planet.
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