91 percent of all plastic created does not get recycled. Even if plastic is thrown away, it does not biodegrade, and only breaks down into micro-plastics that are detrimental to our environment and oceans. Recycling plastic gives the material an opportunity to be reinvented and given a new life, even though recycled plastic reduces the quality of the material. Yes, you should recycle your plastic. However, recycling does not make up for the damage done to the environment by creating the plastic: extracting the oil needed to make it, processing it and transporting it to your nearest store before it ends up in your house.
Yes, making plastic requires oil. Oil, water and energy to be exact. We make plastic bottles by extracting millions of barrels of oil out of the ground. Then, the oil is processed with hydrogen molecules using high energy. The oil is processed over and over again, until it’s in small plastic pebbles. These pebbles are then molded together to make the shape of a bottle, using even more energy. This process makes chemicals that are polluted into our air, which can cause severe human health risks. It does not end there.
The plastic bottle needs to be transported to distributors, burning even more oil on the road. After the bottle serves its purpose, and you’ve enjoyed the over-priced water or soda, you will likely chuck it in the blue bin. However, plastic bottles are blown out of these bins by the wind and blow into storm drains, which lead to the ocean. Every year, more than eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the sea, killing marine life and changing the atmosphere of our oceans.
Next time you justify buying a plastic bottle by promising to recycling it after, consider that there is much more to it than that. Try avoiding purchasing plastic all together. Bring reusable cups, forks and straws to school in your backpack. It is doable!
Plastic production is only increasing. If nothing is done, landfills will be filled with 12 billion metric tons of plastic by 2050. That is as heavy as 35,000 empire state buildings put together!