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Is Recycling a Waste of Time?

Updated: Jul 3

There is a growing consciousness globally of our need to do more to save the planet from irreversible global warming. Incorrect waste disposal contributes to global warming but recycling is a popular method of contesting that. When we take a closer look, however, there are growing concerns over the validity of recycling figures and whether waste plastics in recycling bins are actually even being recycled, leaving some questioning “what’s the point in recycling?”

The UK’s recycling rates are estimated to be at 44% but there are issues with the way in which these rates are calculated, with indications that this figure is overestimated by up to a third. Some countries around the world present their collected waste figures as their recycling rates, even though the waste includes garbage and unrecyclable materials, further skewing figures on recycling rates.

Another issue is that not all plastic waste put into recycling bins ends up being recycled. Up until 2018, China processed almost half of the world’s recyclable waste. From January 2018, China decided to stop this, resulting in an ensuing drastic decrease in the number of plastics recycled around the world.

The costs of exporting plastic waste to be recycled are increasingly deemed unprofitable by many countries. At present, 91% of plastics are not recycled; instead, they end up either in landfills or polluting our oceans.

Initiatives such as the single-use plastic ban, which would see the banning of items like disposable bottles and straws, are a great starting point. In reality, however, many of these initiatives are not significant enough to make an impactful difference. Chemical recycling presents a solution for recycling polymers that has been described as a game-changer.

At BIG ATOM, we are developing an innovative chemical process to break down plastics and tyres into their raw materials; this will allow us to turn waste back into a resource for brand new consumer products. Ultimately, BIG ATOM will close the gap between disposal and manufacturing, establishing a Circular Economy, in an effort to ensure that our recycling efforts are not made in vain.

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