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Should Single-Use Plastics be Recycled Instead of Banned?

ban single use plastics or recycle

All across Canada and some parts of the US, stores are gradually phasing out single-use plastics. You may have noticed that your local grocery stores have stopped offering plastic bags altogether in favour of reusable bags. This decision should come as no surprise to those who have already grown accustomed to paper straws. Single-use plastic has become one of the major talking points surrounding environmentally-friendly changes to our society as a whole. 

Many countries are already banning or planning to phase-out single-use plastics… wouldn’t it be easier to simply recycle these plastics instead? CleanRiver has provided recycling solutions to people all across North America for over 30 years. In this blog we’ve taken a look at our own experience with the challenges of recycling plastics, and what it would take to implement a recycling program that can potentially solve this problem.

Why Are Single-Use Plastics Not Recyclable?

There are multiple reasons why single-use plastics are difficult to recycle, here are some of them:

  • Smaller items like plastic cutlery fall into the crevices of recycling machinery.
  • Plastic items don’t break down easily and just become increasingly smaller pieces.
  • Recyclable materials of all kinds (including non-plastic) won’t get recycled if they’re contaminated with other waste that can’t be cleaned off or removed.
  • A very limited variety of plastic materials are recyclable, most aren’t single-use.

The problem is in the name itself. Single-use plastics are intended to be used once, or for a short period of time before being discarded. Even biodegradable alternatives such as bioplastics still present the same problems as regular single-use plastics. They’re still very resource-intensive to produce and typically don’t biodegrade rapidly under natural conditions (like in the ocean).

What It Would Take To Recycle Single-Use Plastics:

The reality of the situation is that recycling is not an option for most single-use plastics with today’s current technology. There have been attempts to recycle single-use plastics via a method called chemical recycling. Where plastic waste is broken down to a molecular level and turned back into oil. But it has yet to be seen as a scalable alternative to regular recycling plants. In other words, we still have a few years to go until we can totally solve the problem of recycling plastics. Although once we have the ability to use chemical recycling at scale, “infinite” plastic will become reality.

chemical recycling urban mining

While we wait for that ‘eureka’ moment where recycling becomes sophisticated enough to handle single-use plastics… We can do our best to reduce the amount that ends up in landfills.

What A Single-Use Plastic Ban Can Do To Help Plastic Recycling Efforts

You may be already living in an area of the world where there is a single-use plastic ban in effect. One of the benefits you might have noticed is that a lot less plastic waste is present in your neighbourhood. Hopefully, you’re also a fan of bringing reusable bags with you to do your shopping as well (some people like having a carry-limit so they don’t go overboard!)

single-use-plastic alternatives
One of the long-term benefits of having a single-use plastic ban is the removal of plastic bags and other harmful single-use plastics from the environment that could harm animals. Recycling already helps protect humans and animals, but having an outright ban on non-recyclable plastics adds an additional layer of harm prevention. Another benefit is the reduction in the dependency on petroleum-based resources needed to manufacture single-use plastics. Which will allow the limited non-renewable petroleum resources to go towards more useful things such as powering the recycling trucks that can collect our existing plastic waste.

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Looking for more recycling info? Check out these other blogs:

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CleanRiver Recycling provides a variety of innovative, flexible, and customizable recycling solutions. Start saving money today with our green recycling programs.

If you have additional questions that weren’t answered in this blog post please call us at 1-866-479-4038 or email solutions@cleanriver.com

 

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