The Recycling System of Our Plastic Waste Is a Big Lie

Nicole Hilbig
9 min readAug 13, 2022

Why the effort of recycling plastic waste is hardly worth it and why almost everything ends up being incinerated anyway

Photo by Perytskyy on Adobe Stock.

Plastic is a great product. It weighs next to nothing, can be molded into any shape or color, and is relatively cheap to produce. However, a well-known disadvantage spoils all the comfortable advantages mentioned: the resulting waste.

A plastic bag takes around 10 to 20 years to decompose, and a plastic bottle even up to 450 years. And there are still microparticles that settle into the environment.

For this reason, the recycling of old plastic is one of the most important projects of our generation. It signals 100 percent reuse of the plastic.

Packaging made from old plastic can help protect the environment. Because we need crude oil to produce plastic. The production of packaging from recycled plastic releases a good 80 percent less CO2 than the same packaging made from new plastic.”

Nevertheless, old plastic recycling is one of the most difficult undertakings of our time, because even real recycling only works with a fraction of all plastic waste.

Plastic is primarily a disposable product. Most of the plastic in the world is still burned, ends up in landfills or in the countryside and in the sea. In Germany, the “official” recycling rate for plastic is 39 percent, but the actual figure is far lower. Experts estimate it at between 6 and 17 percent.”

This means that just 6% of the so-called recycling waste can actually be recycled.

The rest is thrown back into the incinerators, causing even more CO2 emissions than when it was first produced from crude oil.

Because what can actually be recycled is only plastic packaging from the good-smelling range of cleaning, washing and care products.

Plastic packaging used as food packaging is no longer suitable for recycling for several reasons:

  • they are unhygienic: Because bacteria and impurities can still be residual components in the product, so it will never be able to smell…
Nicole Hilbig

I love learning and writing about the changes in our digital era. My topics are future, work, productivity, writing, education & personal stories.

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