As the holiday season fast approaches it is a good time to remind ourselves to ReBuy or “buy recycled” which means buy products that are made out of recycled materials. Buying recycled gives new life to the recycled material which diverts the waste from landfills and closes the recycling loop.
When shopping look for terms such as ”recycled-content product” or “post-consumer content”. Some popular items that can be made from recycled materials include aluminum cans, cereal boxes, glass containers, laundry detergent bottles, paper towels, trash bags, toys and more.
Why is buying recycled important? According to a recent report by Greenpeace, in 2021 only 5-6% of plastic was actually recycled. This is less than in 2014 (9.5%) and in 2018 (8.7%). (Be aware the reason the number dropped so much is because in 2018 China started refusing our plastic waste… which technically wasn’t always recycled by China but simply burned or dumped.)
The real conclusion here? Plastic is a major problem. Most plastic is not accepted by the 370 material recovery facilities across the U.S. In fact, only some
types of PET#1 and HDPE#2 are actually recyclable. For #3 through #7 there isn’t even a market to recycle those materials. To be frank, most plastic cannot be recycled.
Even worse is that plastic doesn’t decompose, it just breaks down into smaller pieces such as nanoplastics or microplastics. Microplastics are extremely problematic as they get into the food chain and leach toxic chemicals, but new research implies that they are also disrupting carbon sequestration in the ocean.
Since 7th Generation Advisors is about focusing on solutions, here are some good tips about what you can do:
- Glass, cardboard, paper and metal are recycled at much higher rates, so be sure to choose products made out of these materials when possible.
- Reuse and refill instead of buying single use plastic. As a consumer, it’s extremely important to not encourage more plastic creation.
- Be wary of new solutions being proposed such as chemical recycling. This is something the plastic industry is pushing for- to break down plastics using heat or chemical solvents- but this “solution” distracts from the real issue which is that we need to use and produce less plastics.
- Stay aware! It is estimated that plastic pollution is costing society $100 billion a year.