Why isn’t the majority of plastic recycled?
Different Types of Plastic Recycling Patterns
The low rate of plastic recycling might be attributed to a variety of factors. We frequently toss all plastics into the recycling bin. Yet not all plastics can be recycled due to their material qualities. About 90% of global plastic output is thermoplastics. Which can be melted and molded again and again to create new polymers, making all thermoplastics recyclable in theory. The remaining 10% of global plastic manufacturing is thermoset plastics. Which ignite instead of melting when exposed to heat, making them hard to recycle. Electrical insulation, ropes, belts, and pipes are examples of products made with this sort of plastic.
Thermoset plastics are widely used and account for a significant portion of new plastic production. Despite the numerous issues associated with their use, their long-lasting nature means that thermosets are discarded less frequently. Implying that they are, in theory, a less harmful environmental pollutant than thermoplastics. The fact that thermosets contribute significantly to microplastic water contamination. As well as the fact that incineration contributes significantly to GHG emissions and degrades air quality, are all difficulties linked with their disposal. Because it is impossible to recycle these materials, recycling is only a part of the solution to the plastic pollution challenge.
Even when thermoset plastics are included, the question of what happens to the majority of recyclable plastics remains unsolved. The fate of recyclable plastics is determined by the economics of waste management/post-consumer commodities, to give an all-encompassing answer.
Consumers’ Role and Recycling Facilities
Let’s take a look at the issue on a more personal level. Assume you’re a responsible consumer who disposes of recyclable plastics in the proper container. Let’s say you thought your duty was done when you threw away an empty plastic oil container. Plastic containing food leftovers in or on it, on the other hand, cannot be recycled. Only high-quality plastics are capable of being recycled. Sometimes a recycling plant will do the washing for you. But most of the time the plastic is deemed useless and placed in a landfill or incinerator with the rest of the waste. Recycling is a time-consuming process that becomes more expensive as more processes are added, such as post-consumer selection and washing.
The new plastic is incredibly inexpensive to manufacture, creating a competitive climate in which additional processing costs make recycled plastic substantially more expensive. Furthermore, in nations where power is expensive, it may be more cost-effective to incinerate rather than recycle. Adding to these difficulties is the fact that the market is fragmented, making it difficult for persons selling recycled plastic to find purchasers. Because recycling facilities are dispersed unevenly, recyclable plastics cannot be recycled in some regions due to a lack of machinery that would allow for efficient selection and recycling.
New and alternative techniques are urgently needed to avert the limit of our wasteful tendencies. To provide consumers with the most effective and sustainable global impact. The swachhbharat team has worked with local recycling facilities and waste collecting cooperatives in India. Learn about your plastic footprint and what you can do to reduce it (here).
Suggested Read: Swachh Bharat Mission