Whichever way you look at it, ours is an increasingly plasticized world. With 290 million tonnes of plastic produced annually on a global basis, and plastic products being used in almost every aspect of human life from food packaging to reusable shopping bags; cellphones; ceiling insulation and geyser blankets; fibres for geo-textiles; the lining of train tunnels; and in the construction of roads and power stations, plastic is the most ubiquitous material on the planet. Happily, plastic is also recyclable, with recycling showing a year on year increase in the total tonnage being converted.
Here are some interesting recycling facts:
11 recycled cool drink bottles = 1 pair of trousers
35 recycled water bottles = 1 polar fleece jacket
41 recycled polystyrene hamburger clamshells = 1 plastic picture frame
4000 recycled 2 liter milk bottles = 1 park bench
Recycling 1 plastic bottle can save enough energy to power a 60W light bulb for 6 hours, or run a television set for 3 hours
Recycling 1 tonne of PET bottles can save 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Recycling not only keeps our environment clean, it also turns waste into something useful, reduces pollution in the ocean and on land, and extends the life of our landfill sites. Recycled materials that go back into production streams save huge amounts of energy and raw materials. In terms of reuse, plastic bags can be reused as bin liners, plastic food containers as seed trays, plastic ice-cream containers as freezer and/or storage containers and soft drink bottles as portable water bottles for the car or at the beach.
Plastic products can also be used in other wonderfully innovative ways to directly benefit the planet, such as the cattle water trough and shopping baskets, which are being used by the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, to temporarily house baby turtles that are being rehabilitated prior to eventual release.
If we view plastic as a valuable recyclable material, don’t litter, and are responsible about recycling, perhaps we can limit the plasticizing of our world. Is this an unrealistic pipe-dream? I really hope not.