Global Recycling Day 2019 – it’s time for some facts

Global Recycling Day was first celebrated on 18 March 2018. This year it will be once again dedicated to the future of our planet. The aim of the initiative by the Bureau of International Recycling is to highlight the potential of recycling in light of natural resources becoming increasingly scarce. By 2025 water could be in short supply for 1.8 billion people. The demand for coal will exceed its availability in the next century at the latest. Every year, deforestation clears 18 hectares of woodland and we produce 2.12 billion tons of waste that cannot be reutilised.

The facts paint a clear picture: recyclable raw materials should be seen and used as resources. If materials are reutilised instead of being dumped in nature, it is possible to achieve much more than just fighting environmental pollution. By reutilising plastics and other materials, we also obtain raw materials that close the resource cycle.

In order to raise awareness about the potential of recycling we have taken a closer look at some recycling myths on our Twitter and Facebook channels over the past few days.

Myth #1: “It all ends up in the same bin anyway.”

Recycling waste bins

That’s not true! By separating the waste, the different materials also go separate ways. Recyclable plastics, for example, are sorted according to valuable substances, cleaned and then reutilised. This creates raw materials that can be used for the manufacture of new products.

You can read more about the process of reutilising plastics in our post “The journey of waste”.

Myth #2: “Plastic waste will be incinerated anyway.”

flame on blue background

That’s not true! 53% of all plastic waste is incinerated for energy generation purposes. This type of plastics recycling is known as thermal utilisation or energy generation. The remaining 47% are reutilised as new raw materials. A distinction is made between mechanical recycling, in which new raw materials are produced from old plastics, which can be melted down, and raw material recycling, in which all other varieties of plastics are converted into reusable materials.

You can find the precise figures with regard to the recycling sector in our post “Plastics recycling in Germany in figures”.

Myth #3: “Everything in the yellow bag will be recycled.”

yellow recycling bag

That’s not true! Only about half of all plastic waste is reutilised because not all varieties of plastics can be melted down. A distinction is made between thermoplastics, thermosets and elastomers. Thermoplastics—from which yoghurt cups, for example, are made—are the only plastics that melt under heat.

You can find out more about the different types of plastics in our post “A tour through the world of plastic”.

Myth #4: “Paper bags are better than plastic bags.”

Paper bag on blue background

That’s not true! Chemicals, water and energy are needed for the production of paper bags, which can then be used less often. They even consume more resources than plastic bags in order to be equally tear-resistant. Furthermore, they are also heavier than plastic bags, so that their transport leads to higher emissions. Paper bags not made out of recycled paper are only more environmentally friendly than plastic bags once they have been used three or four times—but not all of them last that long.

Myth #5: “Yoghurt cups have to be rinsed."

red plastic cups

That’s not true! The packaging should only be “spoon-cleaned”. Before being reutilised, recyclable materials are cleaned thoroughly anyway. This means that additional rinsing unnecessarily wastes water. However, it is important to remove the aluminium lid from the cup so that these raw materials can be processed separately. The sorting plant is not able to distinguish between aluminium and plastic.

Myth #6: “Polystyrene foam (styrofoam) consumes a lot of resources.”

styrofoam

That’s not true! Air makes up 98% of the styrofoam and actual plastic only makes up 2%. And it can even be produced from renewable raw materials. Plastics have really not earned their bad reputation. As a cushioning, impact-resistant and insulating material, it is also an important component of everyday objects. For example, styrofoam is used for the production of bicycle helmets and even for organ transport boxes and it can therefore help save lives.

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