I am not implying you, the reader, are an idiot, but the process of recycling plastic is more complex than you think, and without getting too technical, have you wondered how it’s done? It depends on us all – from being the designer of the item, through to us as the consumer, to the waste collector and recycling factory worker - how we use our products and in what shape we throw them away, determines their value and quality post-use.
Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made is reported to still exist to this day? Plastic is just indestructible. To make matters even worse, if we continue to pollute our oceans with plastic waste, it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic floating about than fish – an unbelievable amount of eight million tonnes of plastic waste is already in our waters. A sobering thought for the not too-distant future.
Here are the 7 things you might now know:
- Not all plastic is recyclable – straws, coffee cups and bubble-wrap are some that can’t be.
- Not all plastics are equal - would you believe there are 7 different types?
- Coffee cups aren’t recyclable – it might seem like paper – which it is - but there is a thin coating of plastic inside, which is almost impossible to separate without special machinery.
- You can’t recycle dirty plastic – so take a minute to rinse it if you can.
- Every time you recycle plastic it downgrades – the polymer chain shortens. It can only be used two or three times.
- Glass and metal can be used indefinitely – so in reality it makes more sense to buy the bottled or canned version of your drink!
- If you’re not sure if its plastic or paper – sometimes you get an ‘everything else’ category choice while ditching stuff, so next time you use a plastic product, flip it over and check the bottom. If you see #7 in the centre of a three-arrowed triangle, you have no way of knowing for certain whether its recyclable or non-recyclable (apparently even plastics industry people and recyclers can’t tell sometimes).
I read recently that many world-renowned fashion designers have come up with the idea of using recycled plastic to make fashionable clothing, so believe it or not, the future of fashion may lean towards going totally green. Sewing sustainable clothes to help save the planet is a trend that may conquer all runways, and here is how it all functions.
Basically, the bottles are broken down into small flakes, then those flakes are melted a couple of times, filtered and spun into threads.
Later, those threads can be used in the textile industry, anything from swimwear to running socks. Filler for sleeping bags is from recycled water-bottles, and some cosy fleece jackets are woven from recycled plastic.
I had an amazing present yesterday, it was a pair of slippers (I am going through slippers like nobody’s business since lockdown!) that are made from recycled plastic, taking 8 recycled bottles for the uppers, and the durable hard soles are made from castor beans! Who knew about this level of recycling? They have the appearance of thick felt with a hard sole, and are really comfortable.
Apparently it takes about 10 bottles to make enough plastic fibre to make a t-shirt, and 63 bottles to make a sweater (I admit I haven’t knowingly come across either of these yet!). I read that it takes only
14 bottles to create enough insulation for a ski jacket and 114 bottles to make enough insulation for a sleeping bag.
So who knows - if you keep recycling, and the next item of clothing you buy could be made from your own recycled water bottles!