Is Recycling Plastic Always Reduce Waste?
Let’s briefly explore the history of beverage bottles to gain insights into plastic bottle recycling. The first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) disposable soda bottle was introduced back in 1975. Previously, people used refillable glass bottles, putting the burden on businesses to transport, clean and refill bottles. Creating a lightweight disposable bottle was simpler for businesses, especially since the cost of the bottle was passed onto the consumer. Plastic bottles are convenient because they do not break as easily as glass bottles and are lighter to transport, saving energy. The use of disposable plastic bottles also encouraged centralized beverage manufacturing, because the glass bottles no longer needed to be returned to a facility.
Back in the 1970s, however, cities and towns were overwhelmed by the quantities of plastic packaging in the waste stream and started demanding solutions, according to Samantha MacBride, author of the book
Recycling Reconsidered.The plastic packaging and beverage industry was encouraging recycling initiatives instead of regulating or banning disposable plastic packaging.Now, decades later, disposable plastic packaging is barely regulated, thus the burden of waste management falls on local governments and not beverage producers.Sadly, plastic recycling is so complex that lots of materials end up in landfills and plastic is often transported across the globe to find markets for the recycled materials. Read about the plastic recycling in this article https://www.naraloca.com/post/will-recycling-plastic-solves-plastic-pollution-problems
Although plastic bottle recycling certainly can reduce waste, it has also helped prevent regulating and encouraging more systemic sustainable practices. There are so many different types of resins and processes used in manufacturing plastic bottles, making sorting and recycling infinitely more complicated and expensive. Now that the commodity price for plastic is down due to low oil prices and sluggish demand from China, there is less demand for the recycled plastic. Sadly, some recycling plants have closed and lots of plastic is going to landfills. If oil prices increase, this may be a temporary trend.