8 things you didn't know about plastic and recycling
Plastic is all around us, but what do we actually know about this material? The world of plastics is big and there is so much to tell. We have therefore collected eight interesting facts about plastic for you that will give you something to talk about.
1. Plastic is everywhere: from telephone to tea bag
Perhaps the main reason it is so difficult to reduce our plastic waste, is the fact that a large part of our world is made of plastic. Your telephone contains plastic, your television, cars, toys, furniture, solar panels, etc. Sometimes the plastic is so small that you cannot see it with the unaided eye. You can find these microplastics in scrubs, sunscreen, toothpaste, tea bags and sanitary towels. Everyday we use products that are made of plastic. So removing plastic from our lives is challenging. The question is whether it is necessary at all, because plastic itself is not that bad as long as it does not end up in nature.
2. Most plastic waste comes from packaging
About 40 percent of plastic waste comes from packaging materials. Only 15 percent of it is recycled. Much of this packaging is thin plastic film so it is difficult to completely ban packaging from our daily life. A few years ago, the first packaging-less supermarkets appeared, but many of those supermarkets quickly went bankrupt. There are already some alternatives, such as a plastic-free online supermarket. Although a world without packaging is difficult, we can all help by using less plastic packaging.
3. It takes 500 years for plastic to break down
Plastic does not break down quickly. On average, it takes 500 years for a plastic PET bottle to completely break down. This has a good side and a bad side. The good side is that plastic lasts a very long time, which makes it a sustainable material. The bad side is that if plastic ends up in nature, it can cause a lot of damage for a long time. Glass jars and bottles last longer than plastic, about 1 to 2 million years. Glass is made from natural materials and is infinitely recyclable. That makes glass less harmful to the environment than plastic. The main problem with plastic is that we often only use it once. Imagine if plastic was also infinitely recyclable.
4. Plastic is one of the strongest materials on earth
Plastic not only lasts a long time, it is also very strong. If you only look at the material qualities, plastic has many advantages. It is less fragile than glass or pottery. It is waterproof and flexible. In fact, plastic is so strong that you could drag a car with it. At least that is what the inventors of the material Braeon say. This special material is made of plastic fiber and resin. It has the weight and thickness of a sheet of paper, but has the strength of steel. A single layer of Braeon has a pulling force of more than 900 kilos.
5. Plastic is the basis of artistic design
Most people know plastic as a cheap mass product. The word recycling makes it even more difficult for plastic to be seen as a beautiful material. Yet plastic is not as ugly as you might think. In fact, designers show that recycled plastic is a valuable raw material that you can use to make artistic design furniture. From colorful designs to smooth white materials that you wouldn't think are made from recycled plastic. If you are into it, you can even make your own design with recycled plastic sheets.
6. We make buildings and roads from plastic
It is astonishing to see what can be done with recycled plastic. You can even turn plastic into elements for buildings and roads. An interesting development for the construction sector. Plastic Road invented the first cycle path made of recycled plastic. This road is located in Zwolle. These applications of recycled plastic are already so close to reality that it is thinkable plastic never has to end up in nature again.
7. Plastic can save lives
Believe it or not, plastic is actually the foundation of our health. No plastic, no break-resistant lenses, no contact lenses, no prostheses, no plastic joints, no heart valves and blood vessels (yes, they also contain plastic) and no plastic cochlear implants that allow some deaf people to hear again. Plastic surgery has also expanded considerably thanks to plastics. Both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures are part of our society today and help to save lives.
8. Not all plastics are recyclable
It is good to know that some plastics are less recyclable than others. Shiny metal wrappers (eg crisp bags and candy bars) are usually not accepted by recycling companies. Products that are a mix of different materials are also less likely to be recycled because they are difficult to separate. Soy milk and juice cartons, for example, are a mix of paper, plastic and aluminum. Also the ‘good’ vegetable bioplastics cannot be recycled with normal plastic, because it has a different composition than ordinary plastic. That’s why you have to put compostable plastic with the residual waste.