The Problem With Plastic

Plastic has been a topical matter in the news recently as there have been various factors that have affected the way in which the country transports and recycles plastic. In 2016, half of the UK’s plastic waste went to China. In the same year, China processed around 7.3 million tonnes of plastic waste, which is over half of the world’s recyclable plastic! However, China are no longer accepting the UK’s waste due to it being low quality as it is mixed with other materials, making it harder to recycle. The UK now faces the problem of deciding where to put the hard to recycle plastic that is no longer being sent to China.

Plastic is made from oil, a fossil fuel that will one day not exist. On average, the UK throws away 8 million plastic bottles each year! There have been various ways that companies have tried to combat the problem, like finding new ways to recycle plastic, such as incorporating plastic into a mix which is then made to produce road surfacing. However, much work still needs to be done to encourage the public to gather the plastic waste in the first place for recycling. For example, people are putting items in the wrong bins which can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. Generally, the UK public pay the majority of the funds to recycle plastic and the packaging industry pay the remaining costs.

Two main methods that are currently being considered in the UK to combat the rising issue of low grade plastic waste is whether to burn or bury it. Burning can substitute for burning fossil fuels, as this fuel can then be used to warm houses or for tasks such as generating heat to create cement. This Energy from Waste (EfW) can replace virgin fossil fuel oil, which then results in lower gas emissions. However, burning waste is still harmful to the environment and when plastic is burnt to generate electricity it is not half as efficient as the new gas-fired power stations. Alternatively, there is the option to bury the hard to recycle plastic, but the toxins from the waste will still seep into the Earth’s environment.

As there are no wrong or right answers at this stage, the main efforts that the public can focus on, to reduce harm to the environment, is to reduce their plastic consumption and make every effort to recycle. Making even the smallest change can make a huge impact, for example, not using plastic straws will reduce plastic waste as it is one of the top waste materials found in the ocean. Theresa May has recently insisted that plastic straws need to be banned and the government has now launched the Clean Oceans Alliance which will focus on tackling plastic waste in the ocean. To further combat plastic waste, scientists from the UK and USA are currently working on an enzyme that will break down common plastic waste which could be a revolutionary contribution to the recycling and waste industry.

Parry and Evans collects, sorts and bales a wide variety of bulk plastic which is then transported across the world to plastic factories for re-use. Our team are highly skilled at providing plastic recycling services no matter how small or large your company is, so contact us today to discuss how we can provide a plastic recycling solution for you on 01244 281019.

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