The Recycling Myth

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on


Most of us are under the impression that plastic bottles get recycled after we put them in the recycling bin. However, as the Plastic Free Times reports, “not all types of plastic can be recycled, the recycling process can be energy intensive and wasteful, and environmentalists worry that putting the emphasis on recycling does nothing to stem the tide of new plastic entering the world.”

In many cases discarded plastic can be used for other products, such as doormats, textiles, and plastic lumber. However, if discarded plastic is not a kind that can be used to make new products, it ends up in landfills or dumps. As the Plastic Pollution Coalition reports, “This is not recycling, but down-cycling,” because, unlike aluminum or glass, plastic cannot be returned to its original state. Even worse, according to the Environmental Protect Agency, in 2009 just seven percent of all plastics were recycled; 93% went straight to landfills.

Plastic pollution in oceans kills marine life, including some bird species, and threatens to disrupt food chains.

Research on bioplastics—plastic made from plant material—may result in biodegradable, non-toxic plastics, but as the Plastic Pollution Coalition reports, “With almost 7 billion people in the planet, a throwaway culture addicted to disposable plastics is likely to continue harming our environment.”

The Coalition calls for extended producer responsibility and the elimination of single-use plastics.


“Common Misconceptions: The Recycling Myth,” Plastic Polution Coalition, no date,

“Recycling,” Plastic Free Times, no date,

Student Researcher:  Dianet Reyes (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot Cohen (Indian River State College)