Plastic packing is one of the many different types of packaging that consumers dispose of every year. Tonnes of packaging materials are produced, used and thrown away, but they don’t simply disappear into thin air. Much of this waste is taken to landfill sites. Here, plastic packaging materials and others such as paper, tin and glass, take hundreds of years to decompose.
This is assuming that all of these items were responsibly disposed of. If not, plastic packaging, bottles and wrappers could well end up polluting the planet’s oceans and rivers. While this plastic waste is sitting in landfill, or polluting oceans, new single-use plastic packing is still produced at an alarming rate to meet consumer demand.
Unfortunately, landfill and littering are not the only adverse environmental impacts of plastic packaging. Around a third of plastic wrapping waste in the UK is recycled, which might sound great, but there are still environmental impacts from this process.
The recycling process is less destructive than sourcing raw materials, but it still contributes to fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Large amounts of household waste, recyclable or not, means bigger rubbish trucks, more frequent collections to keep the streets clean, and more fuel. All of which adds to the environmental costs.
Plastic packaging facts
Due to the significant environmental impact that plastic packaging has on the planet and its ecosystems, it’s essential to reduce our plastic use as much as possible. If you need encouragement to limit your plastic waste, here are a few plastic packing statistics that will get you thinking more about your plastic consumption!
The UK spends £78 million every year on landfill
500 billion plastic bags are globally used every year
It’s estimated that 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfill by 2050
Plastic outnumbers sea life 6/1
10 million tonnes of plastic reach the ocean every year
50% of plastic is used only once
Only 1/3 of UK plastic packaging is recycled
Plastic packaging recycling
The reality of recycling plastic packaging is that it has many of its own problems to consider. Recycling plastic is a current and potential future solution for addressing plastic wrapping related issues. Most of the plastic produced does not get recycled.
Based on the current recycling ecosystem, plus the commercial restraints of recycling, there are only a few types of plastic wrapping that can be recycled. Plastic can’t be recycled infinitely, like some metals. Ultimately, recycling plastic can only delay it ending up getting disposed of or incinerated.
Moving forward, a solution to address these plastic packaging issues is to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packing we are using. Likewise, we should also be looking to invest more in sustainable alternatives that only use natural ingredients, not human-made and not using plastic.