The Myth of Plastic Bottle Recycling

by Project Censored

Most of us are under the impression that plastic bottles are being recycled once they are put in a recycling bin. But little do they know plastic cannot be recycled because of the components out of which it is made. I assumed like many others that plastic bottles were being reused to make more plastic bottles. Instead, the most that can be done with them is to be used for other products, such as doormats, textiles, plastic lumber, etc. Sadly, if they are not needed to make new products, they end up in landfills or dumps, which is where we are supposed to be trying to prevent them from going. The article uses the word, “down-cycling,” to show how recycling isn’t really happening. Although the author argues that plastic cannot be recycled and put back into its original state, like aluminum or glass, attempting to recycle some plastic is better than not recycling at all.

The use of plastic bottles has risen 3 times in total production in the last five years, since they are in extreme demand. The fact that many plastic bottles are being produced is not helping the recycling factories reuse them for other products. Instead the world is being overpopulated with them to the point where they are being seen in large amounts in oceans, landfills, public dumps, and in some cases deserted rural areas. Some companies feel that this problem is not their responsibility once they are distributed and out of their factories. They say it is our responsibility to recycle them, therefore, giving no effort to help clean oceans and prevent them from ending up in landfills. The government has said it would take millions to clear the ocean of such large amounts of waste including plastic bottles. This phenomenon has killed a lot of marine life, some species of birds, and in a way has thrown off the food chain. Scientists have been conducting their own research to make plastic more biodegradable, but are still far from making it happen. A bio plastic has been mentioned to be the new material for plastic bottles, but there is still a problem in making it eco-friendly.

Sources:

“The Recycling Myth,” PlasticBottleCoalition. http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/learn/common-misconceptions/

“Recycling,” PlasticFreeTimes. http://www.theplasticfreetimes.com/node/56441

Dianet Reyes, Indian River State College

Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
ETHICS ALERT

People are encouraged to recycle on a daily basis, or at least I do. I try to spread the word on how important it is to recycle not only for our sake, but for the world’s best interest. I try to recycle as much as I can. Since I consider myself an environmentalist, it is very important to practice what I preach. After reading the article, I felt like a hypocrite. I’m constantly lecturing all my piers on the topic of recycling and talking about its importance to our environment without knowing that instead of recycling I was down-cycling. Down-cycling is the term given in the article when not everything is being recycled. In this case it is plastic bottles. Plastic bottles cannot be broken down and converted into a new plastic bottle. Instead, they are used to make new products such as doormats, textiles, plastic lumber, etc. So why are we given the illusion that they are being recycled?

In my opinion, I feel that if the government actually informed us that we are not really recycling plastic bottles, people would soon cease to care and stop recycling. Therefore the continuation of pollution would continue at an even higher rate. Ethically speaking, it is wrong to deceive people into thinking they should be recycling when in fact it is not really happening. While it is true that recycling can help to reduce pollution, which is a serious problem, people should be told the truth about why they need to put their bottles in bins rather than to pollute the environment with them.

Plastic is a big threat to our environment since it cannot be decomposed properly. Our oceans are the main resource that is being vastly affected. A lot of the marine life is dying daily because they confuse these plastic substances for food. Even birds are dying because of this epidemic. Birds are beginning to confuse bottle caps for food, which are not digestible, disallowing the birds to get proper nutrition and eventually they die. However, by removing all the plastic from the ocean a consequence to the food chain is to remove the plankton as well. Plankton is at the bottom of the food chain and is a nutritional source for a lot of the marine life..

Unfortunately, the media has failed to educate the public about this problem, which will eventually affect all of our lives through its adverse effects on the environment. Scientists are looking for ways to help reduce the problem by using a new form of reusable plastic known as bio plastic, but they are not fully sure if the new material will be biodegradable. In fact, they have said it will take a couple of years for these products to fully decompose. Yet, tests and experiments are still being done to help lower the pollution of plastic.

I believe ridding the world of the plastic pollution can be done if everyone did their part and helped spread the word of how serious of an issue it really is. Unfortunately not everything can be recycled, so some bottles end up in landfills which are sad since recycling is supposed to keep them from ending up there. We now than ask ourselves, “What can we do to minimize this problem?” For one reducing the use of plastic is one way to lower the pollution rate bottles have caused. How? Well, instead of purchasing bottled waters we could buy reusable plastic cups or containers and fill them up with water. Like the ones the athletes use to keep hydrated. What if I only drink purified water? I say, “No problem.” We could invest in a Brita, a water filter that filters tap water into purified water. It may take more time to drink purified water compared to already sealed bottled waters, but in the long run it will benefit our planet. Imagine how much cleaner the oceans would be, how more bottled waters would be used to make other products since the consumer rate has declined, and how much cleaner our habitat would look. The fact that the media has given this issue little to no attention, has let consumers believe, recycling is the best we can do to minimize this global problem. This is morally incorrect. The public has a right to know what they can do to help prevent issues like this from getting out of control in the future.