Most likely, when you toss your plastic trash into a recycle bin you believe you’re doing the right thing. You think your plastic waste gets magically whisked away to a recycle center where it will be transformed back into more useful plastic items.
Recycling feels like a harmless way to get rid of stuff, a way to prevent your plastic cup or bag or food container from the landfill where it might sit for decades before leaching toxins into the groundwater. But these pleasant little recycling sagas mostly aren’t true and trusting them is a mistake.
Globally, only 10-15% of plastic currently gets recycled. That means 85-90% of it either ends up in the landfill or littered throughout the environment. The World Economic Forum estimates that as much as 30% of plastic leaks out of the collection system and is unaccounted for, which means it’s scattered in your local waterway or in the ocean. The fantasy that the plastic we trustingly put in the recycle bin actually gets recycled and re-used again is just that, a fantasy.
Since sunlight is the best disinfectant, shedding light on recycling might dispel the myths and help you make better decisions.
Myth number 1: You might think your single-use plastic water bottle goes off to be shredded, melted, ground up into tiny plastic pellets and these good-as-new plastic pellets are re-made into other useful items. Yay, right? Nope.
While it is true that your plastic water bottle is one of the few types of plastic that can be recycled, the quality of the plastic degrades once it’s been used. Recycled plastic is generally down-cycled into lower quality, lesser value plastic.