For years we have all been told that plastics recycling is the right thing to do. Here is one very good reason not to create plastic waste in the first place. According to reporting by James Bruggers for Inside Climate News, “the chopping, shredding and washing of plastic in recycling facilities may turn as much as six to 13 percent of incoming waste into microplastics—tiny, toxic particles that are an emerging and ubiquitous environmental health concern for the planet and people.”
A team of four researchers measured and analyzed microplastics in wastewater before and after filters were installed at an anonymous recycling plant in the United Kingdom. The study, one of the first of its kind, was published in the May issue of in the peer-reviewed Journal of Hazardous Material Advances.
“If the team’s calculations are ultimately found to be representative of the recycling industry as a whole, the scale of microplastics created during recycling processes would be shocking—perhaps as much as 400,000 tons per year in the United States alone, or the equivalent of about 29,000 dump trucks of microplastics,” Bruggers says. Yikes! We already know microplastics are everywhere on the planet. Recycling is making that problem worse?
“The study suggests that rather than helping to solve plastics’ contribution to what the United Nations has described as a triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss, recycling could be exacerbating the problem by creating an even more vexing conundrum,” Bruggers reports.
“The paper was published as United Nations delegates prepare to hold their second meeting to negotiate a potential global plastics treaty later this month in Paris, with one potential outcome being more plastics recycling as the chemical and plastics industry presses governments to keep plastic in the global economy,” Bruggers adds.
If you needed one more reason not to purchase plastic amenity bottles, plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, etc., you have got one.