Ever wonder what happens to all the plastic bottles we use? A surprisingly small percentage of disposable plastic bottles are recycled – only 23%. The other 77% go to landfills.
Due to the complexity of reprocessing plastic, bottles collected for recycling are typically “downcycled” – that is, made into something of lesser value. Instead of being made into new drink containers, most are used for carpet backing, clothing, etc. The economics of this process are challenging in the best of times. It is cheaper to use virgin material – oil – than to use recycled plastic.
Given our current economic downturn, the economics of recycling plastic have gotten even worse. Prices for recycled materials have plummeted as demand from China and everywhere has dropped. According to a recent New York Times article, “Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up” recycled materials are accumulating by the ton and if things don’t change they may be heading for landfills instead of a second life.
Time to reuse, not recycle!