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Can Plastic Truly Be Recycled?

Can Plastic Truly Be Recycled?

So can plastic truly be recycled?  Let's break it down, plain and simple...

Materials like metal, glass and paper can truly be recycled because they can be remade into the same form without needing any additional materials to do so. A recycled glass container can be continually remade into a glass container, over and over and over again, without ever needing new material and without ever needing to go to the landfill.

Plastic on the other hand, cannot be. The process of recycling plastic weakens it, so new, virgin plastic must be added to it in order to make the same form again. Essentially, plastic can be DOWN-cycled but not truly REcycled. For example, a recycled plastic water bottle can be down-cycled into teddy bear stuffing or a synthetic rug, but not into another water bottle without needing to add new plastic.  And eventually, this down cycled plastic will run it's lifecycle to the end and will end up in the landfill.

So now you can see why recycling is definitely not the answer.  Not much of plastic gets recycled anyways, and that which does, is destined one day to end up in the landfills or waterways.  So what is the answer???  Refusal!  Not using it at all, and instead, finding a truly sustainable alternative that can be reused, recycled or will biodegrade and return to the earth one day. 

And for Hong Kongers looking for glass recycling drop off points, check out this link:  http://www.glass-recycling.com.hk 

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How Long Until It's Gone?

Have you ever wondered how long your waste takes to break down and return to the Earth?  I did and some of the statistics are shocking!  


As I've always said, change comes through education.  Once we know the implications of plastic waste in our world, we will be able to do nothing other than CHANGE!  So let's Learn: The biggest takeaway from this information is this: plastic will never fully biodegrade.  "While plastic may break down into smaller and smaller pieces, some as small as grains of sand, these pieces are never truly biodegradable. The plastic bits, some small enough that they're called microplastics, threaten marine life like fish and birds", explains Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University in the U.K.

  • Paper towel: 2-4 weeks
  • Apple core: 2 months
  • Cigarette butt: 1-5 years
  • Plastic grocery bag: 10-20 years
  • Tin can: 50 years
  • Styrofoam: 50 years
  • Rubber sole: 50-80 years
  • Aluminum can: 200 years
  • Plastic beverage holder ring: 400 years
  • Plastic bottles: 450 years
  • Disposable diapers: 450 years
  • Fishing line: 600 years

*Again, it's so important to remember that the plastic items on this list will never disappear, rather only break down into tiny pieces which will then either get ingested by wildlife or poison our waterways and soil.

***Source: U.S. National Parks Service, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S.)

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