The Plastic Waste Journey: Where Does It Go?


Plastic is cheap to make and incredibly versatile, which is why it is used for so many products. Despite the benefits of using plastic, there are also many downsides to be aware of, and the main one is the impact this material is having on our planet. The majority of plastic products are thrown in landfill after a single use, and this habit of disposable plastic has a huge environmental impact. But have you ever wondered what happens to plastic after it goes into the bin or into recycling machinery? Read on to find out.

How Much Plastic Is Being Produced?

The scale of plastic production is overwhelming, and since the materials invention back in 1907, it has been produced on mass all across the globe. According to research, 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been throw into landfill over the years, and in comparison, just 600 million tonnes has been sent to recycling equipment. In the UK, almost half of the plastic used is for packaging products, and something which can easily be avoided. Despite plastic being openly recycled, a huge amount still ends up in landfill.

What Happens To Plastic When It Is Put Into General Waste?

It can take up to 500 years for plastic to decompose. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced is still on the planet today, and won’t begin to break down for hundreds of years. It is easy to dispose of plastic waste and not give a second thought to where it is going or what happens to it next, but the hard truth is that it is having an effect on our planet.

Unlike organic materials, plastic uses a process called photodegradation to break down. This process uses UV radiation from sunlight, but as landfill waste is layered over time, the lack of light from the sun results in this process taking even longer. The planet is running out of capacity for landfill waste, and the effect these landfills are having on the planet is dire. They contribute to air pollution, impact the quality of soil, attract vermin, and pollute groundwater.

While landfill is certainly a cause for concern, when it comes to plastic waste, there are other issues which also arise. Often plastic waste does not stay in landfill, but finds its way into other areas such as the ocean. 8 million tonnes of plastic winds up in the ocean every single year, often from rubbish being blown from landfill into sewers and rivers. Plastic pollution in the ocean endangers all kinds of sea creatures including fish, birds, dolphins, and whales.

All these plastic problems can be eased through reducing the use of plastic, and then appropriately recycling plastics which must be used. When plastic goes to recycling machinery, it is washed, baled, shredded, and then reused to make brand new plastic products. For more information on plastic recycling and the right recycling equipment for plastic, speak with our friendly team.