Britons are encouraged to recycle their household waste, but unlike paper, metal and other recyclable materials, 91% of plastics are not recycled. Only certain items with specific features are actually recycled.
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of Plastic Planet, told Express.co.uk: “We’ve swallowed this placebo pill that we’re doing our part and recycling because that’s what the plastics industry, aka the industry fossil fuels, wants us to think because it allows them to continue pumping without doing anything to solve the problem.
“But there’s a fundamental reason why the plastic recycling infrastructure isn’t there, in any country in the world, because there’s no financial incentive to do so.
“It is also incredibly difficult to recycle certain types of plastics.”
Only certain plastics can be recycled, including items with a number one or two on the packaging – all other plastics with numbers three, four, five, six and seven cannot be successfully recycled.
However, colored, written on or cloudy plastic, such as the plastics used for milk cartons, cannot be recycled properly – even if it has a number one or two on the packaging.
Sian commented: “Every time you take a bottle of Coca-Cola, for example, and recycle it, it becomes of lower quality. So it’s very difficult to make something from 100% recycled content and to continue this loop.
“So out of the billions of tons of plastic waste that currently exists, very little will be recycled because it is not of sufficient quality.”
Only around nine per cent of plastics in the UK are recycled, while a significant number are sent to poorer countries for processing.
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In September 2020 alone, the UK sent more than 7,000 tonnes of plastic waste to countries including Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Turkey, according to the non-profit organization Last Beach Clean Up.
Ms Sutherland also revealed that the symbol which shows a triangle formed by three circular arrows often seen on plastics does not mean the item can be recycled, which many people believe. Rather, the company that made the packaging pays a fee to go to a recycling system.
Soft plastics such as carrier bags, bread bags, breakfast cereal liners, crisp packets, pouches and plastic wraps make up about 60% of plastic waste and are “largely non recyclable,” Ms Sutherland said.
She added: “It’s not like glass, metal, aluminum, tin or paper, where there’s already a really substantial profitable infrastructure – that’s not the case with plastic, we we must therefore ask ourselves why.
“What I’m asking is ‘why is this our problem?’, ‘why do I have to think about which bin to put it in’ – don’t sell it to me in the first place.”
She added: “That’s what we need people to wake up to. We always think, at home, we do the right thing, put it in the right bin and do the right thing, we always think that that’s the answer.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has also previously revealed that recycling plastics ‘doesn’t work’ and is ‘not the answer’ when answering children’s questions ahead of the COP26 climate change summit.
Sian said “almost anything can be recycled”, but waste management is a very lucrative business and there are few financial incentives to recycle many plastic materials.
Companies continue to create plastics for financial gain because “plastic is the most subsidized material in the world because it comes from fossil fuels” which is “the most taxpayer subsidized industry in the world”.