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What is Really Happening to Plastic Recycling?

Oct 14, 2021
by Sarah Mac
Waste management recycling

In the UK, more plastic waste per person is produced than almost any other country worldwide. Most of us do our bit to sort our waste and recycle the plastic we use, but what actually happens to all the packaging and plastic bottles that we dutifully put out for collection every week?


Is our plastic recycling actually being recycled?


We are constantly being told to recycle more, and as a nation, we do seem to be embracing the concept. But is waste management recycling actually helping to reduce the huge volume of plastic that is discarded every year? What is really happening to it once it’s collected?


The stark fact is that, thousands of tonnes of plastic packaging put out for recycling actually ends up in waste incinerators in the UK. This leads to air pollution, noise pollution, obnoxious odours, litter and traffic as waste is ferried in. Some plastic waste also goes to landfill, where it can leak toxins into the ecosystem, causing all sorts of far-reaching problems for nature. But that’s not the only problem.


Dumped plastic waste can also get blown into waterways and oceans. A recent study shows that plastic packaging and bags are the most lethal form of plastic pollution for marine life. Furthermore, plastic waste is causing serious health problems for those who live close to dump sites and incinerators. In Malaysia, a local solicitor working with the


So what happens to the rest, that must all be recycled? Unfortunately this is not the case.

More than half of so-called recycled plastic is sent overseas


The worrying situation, according to Greenpeace, is that more than half of the plastic packaging that is said to be recycled is in fact sent overseas, much of it to countries with low recycling rates. The sad fact is that much of this plastic is being dumped or illegally incinerated. And the volume affected is even more of a concern… the equivalent of 3.5 Olympic swimming pools every day.


In Malaysia, Kuala Langat Environmental Association told Greenpeace that local residents “were having breathing difficulties, having difficulty to sleep, feeling nausea, [and] feeling unwell” from inhaling the toxic fumes and smoke from plastic waste that had been dumped and burned in the open air.


It is no wonder that many countries are getting fed up trying to deal with the mess, and are in the process of attempting to ban plastic waste imports.

So should we stop recycling?


Most definitely not. But we must all start to consider other ways of reducing waste. There are more solutions to the waste problem than recycling alone, and we should be aspiring to live a more sustainable lifestyle as much as we can. This could include, for example, reducing our plastic consumption by opting for biodegradable or fully recyclable alternatives; educating ourselves about what is recyclable; refusing unnecessary plastics; cutting down what we throw away generally; re-using what we might otherwise throw away; upcycling and circular shopping.

Live a more sustainable lifestyle with help from Kola Project


Kola Project was established in response to the global waste crisis. We are the world’s very first fully circular shopping experience, with a return and reuse program designed to support your ambitions for a more sustainable lifestyle with less plastic waste.


Buying from Kola Project’s collections of premium quality, sustainable household products, provides complete peace of mind that what you’re buying has a future once you’re finished with it, so it won’t end up in landfill. Our program makes it possible to return anything you buy from us for repair, recycling, refurbishment, recycling or composting, regardless of how long it’s been in your possession.


Why not start your circular shopping experience today, and make today the day you do your own personal bit to reduce the growing problem of plastic waste?

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