Is recycling plastic bottles actually helping our planet?

Is recycling plastic bottles actually helping our planet?

Only 10-20% of recycled plastic bottles makes it into being reused! So how is this helping our planet? How can we reuse plastics for 100% ? Using it in its current form is what Greenpeace advises.

Being environmentally aware encourages us to recycle, reuse and reduce, particularly for plastic waste.  We try to be eco conscious and are motivated to do this by recycling our empty plastic soft drink and water bottles, washing them out and diligently throwing these into our recycle bins or bringing them to a donation point near you, where we get some money for our “Earn and Return” or “Containers for Change” programs for our plastic bottles and at the same time helping local clubs with fundraising.    

But how do we know if this is actually doing the planet any good?   Let's look at some facts…

Facts around recycling PET and HPDE bottles

Reading the latest research by Greenpeace (Sept 2022 "Circular Claims Fall Flat Again," ) gives us some shocking facts about recycling of PET plastics (polyethylene terephthalate) from water and soft drink bottles and HPDE plastics (high density polyethylene) from milk bottles, shampoo bottles and cleaning product containers.

These milk and soft drink bottles are known as the number `1 and 2 plastics, and did you know that these are actually only processed at a percentage of 20% and 10 % respectively.  Thus 80 to 90% is unusable and does not get recycled at all!

Aren't these plastics used in sustainable fashion or reused to make new plastic bottles?  Well apparently, not enough!

Buying sustainable fashion made from recycled PET plastics and buying containers from recycled plastics is not a solution… as only very little recycled plastics is used!

Popular sustainable clothing made from PET bottles is drawing a lot of attention and I am sure we all have been attracted to its environmental promise. Yet actually only less than one quarter of PET recycled material (if you are lucky) gets used in sustainable (PET) fashion. And 80 % of your so-called sustainable shirt or bag is actually made from mainstream new virgin plastics such as nylon.

It is a myth that your PET recycled eco shirt or bag made from plastic PET bottles, is saving our planet!

And what is worse, only 5% of plastics from our carefully washed out yogurt, margarine tubs and fast-food containers and other similar kept-for-recycling-plastics, like plastic bags, produce wrappings and coffee cups gets recycled and reused in products!  These are the plastic types "3" through "7" and depending on your local council might not even be accepted in street collection bins.

These plastics also include children's toys,— thank you toy collection bins… yet plastic from toys is again processed into something new at a rate of less than five percent!

Why is this?

Well recycled plastics that are mixed don’t meet food grade reuse, plastics saved from rivers and waste land (yes when we all get together and collect plastics from waterways and beaches) is often too dirty to make it cost effective to clean and reuse…

Plastic clean up rivers

To top it off; the recycling process creates microplastics that get airborne. And what is more China (where most of our plastics go to) is pulling back due to the cost of recycling.   

So are you actually doing the any good with recycling plastic bottles and tubs or when buying so called sustainable fashion from recycle plastic bottles?  Hmm let's rethink that!

We need to improve the process of recycling plastic bottles as the alternative (all this going into waste and oceans) is not acceptable!  Let's get a better plan happening...  

Sadly, it feels like a we can’t win with knowing that new virgin plastic directly competes with recycled plastic, and it's far cheaper to produce and of higher quality, yet understandable this should not be the motivator, not all is about money… And again, creating new plastics created greenhouse gasses and impacts on our environment with mining of fossil fuels.

Of course we know that all plastics sadly in the end ultimately end up in our environment, yet let's use existing plastics and reduce the creating of new virgin plastics...

What can we do? Time to rethink!

My aim is not to make this a bad news blog and leave you feeling all deflated…  it is still better than nothing to buy sustainablefashion made from PET plastics!!


Greenpeace says we need to move towards refill and reuse strategies. Using plastics in its current form! Not using expensive recycling methods.

Reusing like the milkman

This isn't actually a new concept—it's how the milkman used to be, it's how glass soft drink bottles used to get delivered to people’s homes or returned at your local milk bar. They would drink their beverage, give the glass bottle back, and it would be sanitized and reused," @Greenpeace says. At PLOYS we couldn’t agree more!

Like we do with reusing pool inflatables, reusing plastics in its current form, reusing it without the need of machine processing and shredding these into small parts. As we have just learned that this creates an aerating process of microplastics getting into the air around us!

Lets keep things simple people, making new product from old plastics by keeping it as close to its original form as possible, is the way to go! Like the refill and reuse bottle scenario.

Reusing old in its current form, reduces recycling costs, there is no need for expensive machinery to grind and shred when reusing, like our bags made from pool inflatables, they are made from 100% recycled plastics, not just one quarter. At the same time it gives opportunity to make a lasting product that is not prone to popping and deflating! That’s how we like it at PLOYS!

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