For years, we have been told to recycle plastics and now we are hearing plastic recycling is largely just one big delusion.
A recent report by Greenpeace aligns with other reports’ conclusions that more people may be putting plastic items into recycling bins but only about 5-10 percent of those items ever get recycled into other products. The rest get dumped.
Meantime, those items and the other ones carelessly tossed end up buried, burned, littering the landscapes or in lakes, rivers and oceans. Massive amounts of items intended for recycling end up being dumped in oceans.
In the north Pacific Ocean, there is a vast swirling mass of garbage, mostly plastic items, twice the size of Texas. Ingestion of plastic items by marine life is killing whales, dolphins, fish and other creatures. Many are rendered immobile and helpless when plastic items such as plastic netting entangle them.
Humans, too, may be victims. Apparently, virtually invisible “microplastics” are turning up in humans’ bloodstreams, and medical experts are trying to discover if they pose health problems.
Some are recommending plastic items either be re-used in the home or placed in the trash can. Burying that junk in landfills forever just might result in the least harmful effects on the world environment. Well, maybe.
Meantime, companies that make plastic items are vastly increasing production while claiming the solution is for people to keep recycling plastic. Especially problematic are “one-use” plastic items: plastic spoons, water bottles, wrapping for just about every conceivable sales item, and plastic bags – to name just a few.
Many African nations have outlawed plastic bags. In Europe, some single-use plastic products are banned. Recently, Los Angeles County barred restaurants from selling food in plastic containers that cannot be composted. Many other countries, too, have initiated bans of some of the single-use plastic items that are proliferating day after day. Some countries have set target dates by which re-use of products, like beverage bottles, will be required.
There are many reasons for the virtual impossibility to recycle enough plastic items to make a dent in the problem, but perhaps the most likely reason is it is far cheaper to make new plastic products than to recycle used ones. Another reason is that, like it or not, we live in a world predominated by plastic products.
The endless proliferation of plastic items is yet another global headache like the looming climate-change catastrophe.
At this time, the least we can do is to get in the habit of purchasing fewer plastic products (a tall order, to be sure!); not tossing used plastic products in the environment (roads, woods, lakes, rivers, streams); and re-using plastic containers whenever possible.
It may be a far less-than-ideal solution, but it’s better to put used plastic items in the trash can than to toss them here, there and everywhere.