What is Being Done to Bring Hope to the Future of Recycling?
You might have heard disappointing news about recycling over the last couple of years. After restrictions on exporting a portion of the USA’s recycling in 2018, our nation found itself with more recycling than we could process, and some of it ended up in landfills. The pandemic also set back many recycling facilities’ ability to process recycling materials creating an untimely setback.
This unfortunate blow to the well-being of our environment caused many to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. But there are scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists working to reduce the amount of plastic we’re using and on new ways to deal with the massive amount of plastic waste we’re creating every day.
So what is the future of recycling? Here are some hopeful developments in the world of plastics.
Federal, State, and City Policy Changes
The government has the power to enact policy that directly affects our plastic consumption. Many states and cities already restrict take-out containers, plastic bags and straws, and more. The federal government has also funded sustainable legislation such as the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act and the RECYCLE Act. You can look at the platforms of the candidates running for office in your area to see who supports these types of legislation.
In our current economy, we extract materials from the environment, use them to create new products, and then the majority of those products are disposed of. Even the materials that can be reused or recycled eventually end up in the landfill after a while. In a circular economy, the goods that are created are designed to be recycled back into the economy, creating an endless loop of materials that would eliminate the need to extract new materials. One of the ways this could be accomplished is through chemical recycling instead of mechanical recycling (our current system).
Our current system of mechanical recycling only melts down the material to create a more brittle, less sustainable version that can only be reused 2-3 more times before it becomes waste. However, chemical recycling allows plastics to be chemically changed back into their original state and therefore be recycled endlessly. This process has been developed, and scientists are now working on how to scale it in a cost-effective way for production.
You Have the Power to Make Change
Never underestimate the power of the consumer. The more you buy sustainable goods made out of recycled or compostable material, the more you are signaling to corporations that you value environmentally responsible products. When they see the demand for these products, they will continue to work toward creating better products for our earth, giving us even more options to reduce plastic waste and the need for recycling.
When you’re feeling like the environment’s future looks bleak, and you ask yourself, “What is the future of recycling?”, rest assured that the processes are already underway and that you have the power to support and enact change starting today!