While recycling is on the rise today, it’s clear that society still has a long way to go to achieve greater plastic sustainability. Unfortunately, the ever-growing consumption rate is a factor halting this process.Every minute, over 1 million plastic bottles are sold, and the overall demand for single-use plastics remains high. We’ve adopted the notion that once we do our part and throw the plastic product in the right recycling bin, someone else takes care of the rest. But what if that’s not the case? As we look toward the future, what can we do as individuals to advance sustainable plastic recycling?
Plastic waste is an issue in every country in the world. You might have heard of the “Green Fence” — a global initiative to send mass quantities of waste to China for recycling. This system has been more or less functional for years, encouraging the growth of a throwaway culture in countries like the U.S. and Australia. But when China stopped accepting recyclables in 2018, many were left looking for alternatives.
The unhindered consumption of plastics, together with the radical drop in demand, has shown us that in many cases, there’s a lack of local solutions and inadequate waste management infrastructure. This means that the vast majority of plastic waste ends up in landfills despite individual consumer efforts — simply because there’s no effective solution in place.
That’s why the best thing consumers can do is follow the “3Rs” (reduce-reuse-recycle). Ideally, we would buy as little single-use plastic as possible and look towards zero-waste solutions. We can also consciously choose the types of plastics that have a higher potential to be reusable or recycled. For instance, plastic coffee cups contain various multi-material layers, making them difficult to be recycled — we can refer to the number at the bottom to make the distinction.