Recycling Plastic – misleading information

I’m so disappointed by what I’ve seen recently. Much of the information we’re fed about recycling is so misleading, it’s almost criminal. The world we currently live in has become accustomed to the disposable society and there are many companies that profit highly from this. Whenever anybody gets concerned about how much stuff (especially plastic) that we’re just discarding in the rubbish, the answer is always “recycling”. But this is all smoke and mirrors. How does recycling help? There are companies everywhere making and using tons of new plastics every day and we’re disposing all this new plastic into our recycling bins. If recycling actually worked, we wouldn’t need to be making new plastics anymore.

The promise of recycling is predominantly just a myth created by companies who profit from using cheap new plastic as part of their business. There are always alternatives to plastic, but they can be more expensive. The only way to really stop damaging the world is to stop using plastic or, at least, drastically decrease our usage.

I’ve just seen some more misleading propaganda and advertising that prove this to me once again.

Recycling information from a nearby council

What has sparked off this most recent investigation of mine is the following community announcement;

recycling anaerobic digestion

Clearly, the council is telling people that they can use normal plastic bags in the food waste caddies. They say this is fine because of their “anaerobic digestion plants” where the food waste is “turned into energy and fertiliser”.

My first reaction to this was that it must be a whole load of rubbish (pardon the pun!). There’s no way to turn plastic into anything good. But the announcement is coming from the council so I’d expect the information to be reliable. But how can it be?

Also, I couldn’t believe how this announcement is basically telling people to forget using compostable bags (which are easily available now, made from things like potato starch) and just use all of the plastic bags they have in their homes from lots of other unnecessary sources. This can’t be right and it’s a really bad thing. I smell a huge corporation, or group of corporations, behind this who profit from conventional plastic and are concerned by the rise of compostable options.

I just had to investigate.

What are anaerobic digestion plants?

My immediate reaction was that the plastic bags just can’t get “digested” somehow and turned into fertiliser. That’s just impossible. So I began investigating and found this website with the following information (I’ve added the red box);

recycling - plastic bags in surrey caddies

Source: http://www.recycleforsurrey.org.uk/love-food-surrey/food-waste-collection/using-plastic-bags-in-your-caddy

So the plastic bags just get separated from the food waste. That makes sense because there’s no way that plastic could be treated along with food waste.

But then the article says the bags and liners are taken to an energy from waste plant to be turned into electricity. Sounds like magic! What actually is going on?

Energy from Waste (EfW) plants – what are they?

When I started investigating what Energy from Waste plants (sometimes labeled as EfW plants) are, I found it a bit hard to find the real details. Lots of web pages were very obscure about what was actually happening in these plants. Clearly some powerful people don’t want us to know.

Eventually I found this website which confirmed what I’d been suspecting;

recycling - energy from waste plants

Source: http://www.severnwaste.com/recovery/the-process-of-efw/

Energy from Waste plants are just incinerators! They are very careful not to use the word “incinerator” on this page, but that’s all it is. They just burn the stuff and use the heat it creates to boil water and make electricity using a turbine.

But burning stuff is not good! If your neighbour starting burning all their trash in their driveway, you wouldn’t be very happy. Imagine if everyone in your neighbourhood was burning their trash.

It’s important to remember that conventional plastics are derived from petroleum. When they are burnt they release (apart from other things) all of the stored CO2 they contain. It’s just adding to the CO2 overload we’re forcing onto the world right now, leading to climate change and global warming.

We know what damage burning coal has had on the environment and now we’re turning to burning plastic just to get rid of it. Adding to the madness, as we’re burning it at one end, we have factories making new plastic at the other. We are collectively insane.

Conclusions

Don’t be fooled. Plastic is bad for the world. Waste is predominantly bad for the world. Recycling doesn’t work. It helps a little, but doesn’t solve the problem. If recycling did work, we wouldn’t still be creating mountains of new plastic every day and the petrochemical divisions of the energy companies would have been shut down by now (instead, they are growing).

The best thing we can do is stop using plastic, or reduce our usage dramatically. At least, we can boycott any “single use” plastics almost immediately. We can begin the process of just using less, and constantly finding new ways to use less (see Using 10 Percent Less). This would be the most rapid way to help the world recover from our abuse.

It’s important to remain aware and not believe everything we read. This article started from a community announcement from the local council which urged people to just use any conventional plastic bags in their food waste recycling. The announcement suggested it’s fine and good for the environment. That was so misleading. All they are doing is stripping out all the plastic bags and burning them (releasing the CO2 and other chemicals into the atmosphere).

Petrochemical companies make their profits from conventional plastic. Other corporations love using it because it’s cheap, keeps their costs down and they can make more profits. It’s no surprise we see propaganda and advertising that hides the truth and promotes the free use (and disposal) of plastic.

We have to stand up for the greater world so we can stop destroying it.

Please be aware that recycling isn’t the answer. Using less and switching to compostable plastic alternatives is the better direction to be taking.

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