Most recycled plastic never gets recycled

As you walk home from a long day of work or school, you decide to grab something to drink from the convenience store. Once you finish it, you decide to throw away your trash in a recycling bin.

Unfortunately, this good deed will likely be wasted.

A majority of plastic that’s recycled usually never gets recycled.

In 2021, only about 5% of recycled plastic was actually recycled.

According to an article published by the Guardian, around 85% of recycled plastic ends up in landfills and 10% is incinerated.

In a survey involving 76 BNI students, about 90% said that they recycled. Of this 90%, 98.5% said that they recycle plastic. This is by far the most common thing people recycle.

This only seems to be a problem with plastic. Paper and cardboard have a pretty good recycling rate of 68%. A majority of crude steel made in the U.S. was made from recycled material. And only 5% of recycled glass ever made it to landfills.

So why is the recycling rate of plastic so bad? Well, it’s mainly an economic issue. It can be a lot more expensive to reuse plastic than just to make more.

In 2017, China started banning plastic imports for this very reason. In 2018, they nearly stopped taking in all of the plastic imports. This is a massive deal because China was one of the only countries that have the capacity and manpower to recycle so much plastic. Before the ban, China was importing over 50% of the world’s plastic!

But why was it so expensive to recycle plastic? Well, the main issue is contamination. China really only wants pure plastic. But a lot of the time, plastic is recycled with other things that make it more difficult and expensive to recycle.

This issue can be seen at Bishop Noll. Mrs. Schmidt, who is in charge of the recycling program at BNI, said, “We often have to sort through what students put into the bins. Paper goes into one, not candy wrappers, not chip bags, not styrofoam, not used tissues, not liquid, and not food. And I could easily continue on about all the wrong things that get thrown in.”

Now, you shouldn’t stop recycling plastic. The main takeaway should to educate yourself on what can and can’t be recycled.