Over 500 BILLION plastic bottles are produced a year. In 2017 the beauty industry was responsible for 76.8 billion pieces of packaging alone. That number doesn’t include popular accessories such as applicators, scoops or sponges. Many of these items are not recyclable.
So where does it all go?
Even if you sort your recycling every week, only 9% of plastic is recycled.
NINE PERCENT!?! Why so little?
Plastic recycling is complicated. There are seven different types of plastic that can be recycled (and many others that cannot). Waste managers pick and choose which they’ll accept (often based on their secondary market value). When too many “wish-cycled” items contaminate a batch it gets trashed instead. It’s often cheaper for waste managers to burn or landfill plastic than process it responsibly. In 2018, Philadelphia famously burned over half their collected recyclables due to processing costs.
10% of all plastic generated every year ends up in our oceans. The Pacific Garbage Patch lies at the intersection of currents that have hurled plastic trash from all over the world’s oceans into a swirling pit estimated to be well over 270,000 square miles in size. It includes such as bags, bottles and toothbrushes, some of which are over 50 years old.
These items will continue slowly breaking down over the next 400 years. Many will never fully biodegrade. Instead, they’ll turn into micro-plastics. Tiny, fragmented particles that have been found in our drinking water, food and most species of marine birds and ocean life.
So how can we change?
Refuse single use plastic. Say “no thanks” to straws, plastic bottles and bags by bringing your own.
Reduce consumption of products excessively packaged in plastic. Buy in bulk when available.
Reuse or repurpose what you already have. Do you need more Tupperware or can you re-use the jar you bought filled with jam at the grocery store?
Recycle responsibly. After you’ve refused/reduced/reused you should have less going to the curb weekly.
Rot or compost materials like food scraps, paper and cardboard either at home, neighborhood or municipal composting facilities.