Plastics are encroaching on every part of the world, from Mariana Trench to human blood. The world is taking remedial steps like recycling and curbing single-use plastic to solve the crisis. However, are these workarounds leading to a cleaner planet, or is the plastics concern far deeper than we realize?
A large portion of the earth's surface is covered in discarded plastic, endangering animals and human health. This makes recycling more pertinent than ever. Proper recycling offers businesses and consumers to reuse their waste instead of ending up in landfills. Ironically, recycling processes are not as efficient as they could be. The amount of plastic trash effectively recycled is both hard to believe and alarming.
Out of the billions of tonnes of plastic waste generated globally, only around 10% gets recycled.
The plastics recycling rate in the United States is also declining while the quantity of waste produced is increasing. EPA estimated the country's plastic trash recycling rate at about 9% in 2018, with around 91% ending up in landfills or incineration for energy. Now, the latest research revealed a dropped 5-6% recycling rate in 2021. Given that it is almost half of the previous rate, America's plastic recycling situation certainly looks a little concerning.
Why is recycling not as effective?
Recycling is ingrained in our culture, but not all of the waste we throw away is recycled. In fact, the majority is disposed of in landfills. And much of that has got to do with shortcomings in the recycling process. Through insight into Tesco's waste recycling system, we understand errors like poor disposal by waste brokers, waste bales crammed chaotically in unmarked warehouses, waste sent to unapproved regulators, lack of profit margin, etc.
Things have taken a swing for the worse also as a result of the global pandemic and several other factors. For instance, the United States normally ships overseas to China most of its recyclable plastic, which is no longer the case. China's ban on specific waste imports has impacted the entire world. The country's recent regulatory changes have slowed the global recycling business to a point where it has more or less come to a standstill.
Out of the recyclable materials, plastic, glass, paper, and metal make the majority of the lot. However, given that each of them generates different amounts of waste, the specific recycling rates of each vary considerably. Here's a glimpse of EPA's last published record on MSW generation and recycling percentage.
The problem only worsens with nearly all of the plastic being downcycled. It loses its value over time and sooner or later becomes too threadbare to be recycled. The majority of waste remains stuck in landfills, eventually degrading into deadlier microplastics. This is nothing but more bad news to the already existing warning of 12 billion metric tonnes (approx) of plastic in landfills globally by 2050— roughly 35,000 times heavier than the entire Empire State Building.
Even with the rigorous efforts of countless thousands of people across the world, plastic pollution continues to be an issue. Contaminating the water, air, and land and threatening the lives of millions of humans, animals, and plants. While recycling is an effective way to reduce the massive levels of harmful waste that pile up around the world, we must all start putting effort into abandoning our dependence on plastic.
How is Terra Thread contributing to the plastic-free movement?
The consequences of climate change have put the urgency on consumer behavior transformation. Terra Thread is a catalyst in demonstrating how conscious consumer culture can change the way we purchase things. Standing on the absolute antithesis of fast fashion, our slow, ethically manufactured products are designed to last. Terra Thread's sustainable backpacks, mini backpack, computer sleeve, and other bags are made from rain-fed organic cotton, which is grown without pesticides and are free of synthetics. We're dedicated to sustainable, eco-friendly products and plastic-free packaging. All our products are made of biodegradable natural fiber sourced responsibly. We are working hard on completely eliminating plastic at every stage of our production, and we are doing all we can to eventually get there.
The world cannot completely avoid using plastics; however, that doesn't mean that consumers cannot take responsibility for their actions. Conscious efforts like reducing the use of plastic in everyday life and committing to effective recycling will lead to less environmental damage. We must all make a concerted effort for recycling to work effectively by completely transforming our consumption behavior and frameworks.