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Plastics and Recycling

 A vast amount of products are made from plastics in today’s world, ranging from packaging to bottles to children’s toys to car panels. It is such a versatile material that we would now struggle to exist without it, such is our global dependency. There is one big problem with this, which is that plastics are made from oil, a fossil fuel! Fossil fuels are not infinite and we are draining the planet’s resources at a phenomenal rate. As the raw materials become scarce and more difficult to extract, prices will rise and ultimately the oil will one day run out.

Consider also that making ‘new’ plastic uses energy in addition to raw materials. To produce just one kilogram of plastic takes 36 mega joules of energy, but to produce the exact same amount of product through the recycling process only takes 4 mega joules. This demonstrates that the energy used to recycle is a huge eight times less than the energy to manufacture new plastic. When the world is being called upon to cut carbon emissions, this is a difference that cannot be ignored.

It is therefore essential that we recycle plastic goods where possible. Recycling of other materials such as paper and glass has been commonplace for years, but the technology to recycle plastic has lagged behind and it used to be true that it was not viable or practical to recycle plastic. Thankfully, that is no longer the case and many countries have developed the necessary technology and facilities for large-scale plastic recycling. As the environment and climate change are becoming increasingly important issues to the wider public, governments are under pressure to ensure that they are doing all that they can in the war on waste.

Of all the types of plastics waste produced, that which forms the majority are plastic bottles which can easily be recycled. Britain alone throws away half a million tonnes of plastic bottles every year, which equates to over 9 billion bottles!  Americans use an astonishing 2,500,000 million plastic bottles every hour. Most of these end up in landfills where they take up huge amounts of space.

Recycling plastic bottles reduces the number that end up in landfill sites and means the plastic they are made from can be used to make innovative new products, including fleece jackets as one example.  Using as few as 25 2 litre soda bottles, one adult sized fleece jacket can be produced. Recycling just one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60W lightbulb for 6hrs.

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