Recycling is not a solution.

The oceans are full of plastic waste. This message has reached most people by now with powerful images of dead whales that are full of plastic, dolphins stuck in ghost fishing nets or turtles eating plastic bags.

At the rate new plastic is produced, trying to solve the plastic pollution problem with recycling feels like saving a sinking ship with a teaspoon. Yet, it’s too often treated as a disposal problem which only favors the companies who make billions of dollars producing new plastic at an ever increasing rate. 

The truth is that plastic harms the environment not only after it’s lifetime, but through the entire lifecycle of the plastic product. 

First there is the extraction and refining of oil, the oil is then made through chemical reactions into solid plastic and then pellets which are used to make different kinds of plastic products. All these steps obviously require energy and transportation in between and there are also the risks of spills of both oil and plastic pellets (among many other issues).

Many of the plastic products are designed to be only used once. Much of it is packaging. After being used it usually ends up being burned in a landfill or in nature. Only a small portion is recycled.

Importance of Environmental Protection

Compared to many other materials, plastic is not that good for recycling. Many plastics cannot be recycled at all, and when they can, usually they can be recycled only once or twice. For example, a PET bottle can not be made into a new bottle.This is because the heating process makes the polymer chains shorter which makes the quality poorer. Instead the bottles typically are made into a polyester yarn which then for example can be used as a canvas for an awesome pair of shoes. That is great of course, but sadly there is no way to recycle the plastic again once the shoes are worn out.

So eventually all plastic will end up, once again, being burnt, in a landfill or in nature, no matter if disposed of in the recycle bin in the first place. 

Burning the plastic is often presented as a good solution as we get rid of the waste and it creates energy. However, this obviously creates CO2 emissions, it’s like burning oil, just disguised as plastic, and once again takes focus from the deceitful corporations, so they can keep drilling for their oil and profits from ruining our planet.

The point is not that recycling is bad or unnecessary, after all we use recycled material for our shoes. But we think it’s more important that the source of the problem is addressed. If sitting in a boat that takes in water, and all you have is a teaspoon, we’d definitely start scooping. However, stopping the leak needs to be the first priority. That is why we need to drastically reduce our use of plastics, especially single use plastics. #rethinkconsumption

Mermaid tears” found on a beach. These are small pieces of plastic which have broken down and shaped into small round pieces by sand and waves. Some of them are also pellets spilled or dumped into the water by the plastic industry.