International Plastic Bag Free Day is held every year on 3 July. This is part of an initiative to eliminate plastic bags on a worldwide basis.
The average length of use of a plastic bag is 25 minutes, but once thrown away, plastic bags do not decompose easily. They can stick around for between 100 and 500 year, before eventually disintegrating.
In 2015, the law changed in the UK, ensuring that shops would charge five pence for all single-use carrier bags. Over the next couple of years there was a decrease of nearly 300 million plastic bags.
But despite this dramatic shift, there’s still plenty of plastic out there, and it forms a large percentage of the rubbish we throw away.
What happens then, to the plastic you put in a skip?
The Plastic Problem
In the UK, we use an estimated five million tonnes of plastic a year. Nearly half of this is packaging.
The problem with plastic is that it does not compose. If it goes into landfill, it can, potentially, last hundreds of years. And it can also cause considerable environmental damage, including polluting soil and rivers, and harming wildlife.
Local authorities are finding plastic increasingly difficult and expensive to dispose of. China is no longer accepting certain types of plastic waste, due to worries about the sheer volume of it, and contamination issues, which made it harder to recycle.
Plastic waste is also polluting the world’s oceans. Around eight million pieces of plastic are entering the sea every day. Most of this comes from sources on land, washed down from rivers and drains, or from litter left on the beach. Some comes from industry spillages, from landfill sites, and from containers and fishing equipment lost at sea.
This is having a catastrophic effect on marine wildlife, and it could have a long-term impact on coastal tourism and local economies.
How Much Plastic Do We Recycle?
The UK Government has a strategic target for tackling plastic pollution. This involves working towards all plastic packaging being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. But each year, the amount of recycled plastic in the UK is on the increase.
As part of their waste management services, most UK local councils provide some sort of recycling collection for plastic.
The plastics packaging waste that is collected then goes to the recycling sector:
- 43% of plastic packaging is recycled
- 74% of plastic drinks bottles are recycled
- 32% of all plastic is recycled.
Other plastic is recovered, rather than recycled. This means it does not go to landfill, but is repurposed in some way instead. This repurposing can include recovering energy from incinerating plastic waste.
What is the Waste Hierarchy?
The waste hierarchy comes from the European Waste Framework Directive.
This is an inverted triangle, which sets the order of priority for waste management:
- Preparing for re-use
At the top of the hierarchy is prevention, which focuses on pre-waste, reducing the amount of resources we use in manufacturing, and ensuring products last longer, so that we dispose of less.
At the opposite end is disposal, involving landfill or incineration, without recovery.
But in between these two stages, there are the processes recycling and recovering certain materials, including plastics.
Why Should We Recycle Plastic?
We have already seen how much of a pollution problem plastic is causing, but recycling it is a key way to bring down costs and reduce the environmental impact of certain sectors, such as construction, manufacturing and retail.
Plastic has advantages and value as a material that is resource-efficient, providing we recycle it:
- Recycled plastic is a sustainable source of raw materials
- It leads to the consumption of less energy in manufacturing new, fresh polymers
- It minimises the amount of plastic going into landfill sites
- It reduces the carbon footprint of plastic-rich products.
What Types of Plastic are Recyclable?
Theoretically, ALL plastic is recyclable.
But, in practice, there are costs and logistics that restrict which types of plastic are most commonly recycled. The two most common types of recyclable plastic are PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene).
The UK has to export some of its plastic for recycling simply because currently it does not have the capacity to recycle all the plastic it produces.
Recycling or Recovery
When plastic waste goes for recycling, it is first sorted. Plastic that is suitable for recycling is decontaminated first. The decontaminated plastic that is economically viable to recycle will then go to a recycling facility.
This material, whether going to UK or overseas recycling facilities, adds to the overall recycling rate.
Remaining material will either go to landfill or a facility which can extract energy from waste.
How Skip Hire Supports Plastic Recycling
If you use our skip hire services, we’ll recycle as much of your waste as possible, including plastic. Recycling your plastic is the perfect way to help the UK become greener and, ultimately, to reduce the amount of plastic waste on the planet.
Please fill in our order form, or call us on 0800 652 0160.