Recycling plastic waste

March 3, 2021

This article is part of the Consumer Council of Fiji’s World Consumer Rights Day Campaign themed “Eliminating our plastic footprint”. The 2021 WCRD campaign will focus on 7RsRethink, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Restore and Replace. This 7-week campaign aims to help influence consumers to re-evaluate their consumption habits to minimise plastic use, recycle plastic where possible and demand more sustainable alternatives from businesses and governments.

Some plastic pollution facts: In 2018 Greenpeace released data that indicated that about 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since 1950s. Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled, 12% has been burned and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or the environment. Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year that is equivalent of a truckload of plastic entering the ocean every minute. There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans which is enough to circle the earth over 400 times. Above mentioned all the facts are enough to make one realizes the importance to recycle or completely opt an alternative for good to save our mother earth.

What is recycling?

RECYCLING is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. There are three main types of recycling. These are primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary recycling refers to the process of turning one product into more of the same product, for instance, recycling plastic bottles into more plastic bottles. In primary recycling, consumers can deposit bottles into recycling bins that are used by beverage companies to produce more bottles.  Secondary recycling refers to turning something into other things made of the same material in essentially the same form. An example of this would be reforming plastic bottles to pot plants. Tertiary or chemical recycling requires breaking materials down chemically to produce something very different. This would mean breaking down materials such as single use plastics to make car parts or pens.

Why should we recycle plastics?

Many people recognize the importance of recycling plastics. By recycling plastic, the need to make more plastic lessens. The process to make new plastic uses more energy, petroleum, and water compared to producing products through recycling. If residential and commercial properties make it a priority to recycle their plastics, the need for natural resources and energy will substantially reduce. This reduction can help reduce high levels of carbon dioxide in the environment. It can also stop energy companies from using more natural resources.

Data revealed by This is Plastics, a site dedicated to helping influence change in how we use plastic indicates that when we use recycled plastics to make new plastic products, we conserve more than materials. We can reduce energy usage by 66%. Plus, for every one ton of plastic we recycle, we save the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of fuel used to produce the same product without recycled plastics. From consumers recycling plastic bottles to manufacturers using recycled plastics in the products they make; our combined recycling efforts make a huge difference. The more we recycle, the greater our positive impact can be. When it comes to recycled plastic bottles, a small number actually become plastic bottles again. More often, they are used to make car parts, clothing, shows, and pens to name a few.

How can we recycle plastic at home?

Consumers can make a great difference in choosing to recycle or upcycle plastic waste. When thinking of how to recycle plastic in homes consumers can employ creativity and even include kids as part of projects to help instil recycling habits. Some creative tips include:

  • Reuse packaging containers for Storage. Empty plastic containers can be used to store foods and spices.
  • Make a Do It Yourself (DIY)Plastic Bottle Planter. Instead of throwing away plastic bottles, these can cut and used for pot plants. Consumers can start an herb garden through this process.
  • Upcycle laundry detergent bottles into a watering can. Holes can be made on bottle caps of detergent bottles with handles and used as watering cans.
  • Create a Piggy Bank Made from a Reused Plastic Bottle. Seal the bottle, create a coin slot and decorate to make a piggy bank. 
  • Upcycle a Bottle into a Charging Dock. Draw a cradle on the bottle with a marker and cut it out. Use this to hold your phone while charging to avoid being electrocuted.
  • Craft a Lamp from your Plastic Bottle Caps. Glue bottle caps together into the shape of a lamp and decorate and use in homes.
  • Reuse Soda Bottles by Creating a Vertical Garden. For consumers with lack of space to plant, making vertically stringed pot plants can be the solution to their problems.

How can businesses employ recycling habits?

One of the main reasons why recycling plastics is important for a business is because it is a simple way to save money and improve their company turnover. Recycling programs can create cost avoidance and better yet, free up funding for other sustainable initiatives.

When companies make sustainable choices and implement recycling plastic programs, they have the potential to sell their recyclable waste for alternative uses thus earning back money that was used to finance the program and, in most cases, generate even more. As recycling technology continues to make advancements, our metals, plastics, and glass only become more precious as the cost of materials go up. Recyclable materials are a commodity, so find out the market value in your region and discover how much your recyclables are worth.

Furthermore, having a centralized recycling program could also help make your business more money. Centralized recycling programs force employees to be more aware of what trash they’re generating and how they’re disposing of it. This helps reduce the contamination of the recycling streams which in turn helps increase the value of your recyclable assets.

So, by opting to recycling initiatives, businesses will not only help save our planet but will also generate revenue from it.

For any consumer issues or more information on our campaign against plastics, consumers are encouraged to contact the Consumer Council of Fiji on toll-free number 155 or email complaints@consumersfiji.org. Alternatively, complaints can be lodged via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App available for download on Google Play Store.


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