Beware plastic recycling

7th April 2021

The sad truth is that less than 10% of everyday plastic – the plastic packaging that the things we buy is wrapped in – actually gets recycled in the UK.
- Greenpeace (article)


Coca Cola : 'Mexican death sentence'
© Tomas Castelazo
Full credit here

For at least the last 50 years, Big Plastic and their advocates have misled the public, telling us a system of plastic recycling will solve plastic pollution problems. It hasn’t. Big Plastic and Big Soda kept the plastic pollution crisis a secret for decades. These companies have lobbied governments to prevent effective measures to reduce plastic pollution whilst publicly pledging to reduce waste. As public awareness has turned to plastic pollution, we are told again that plastic recycling is the way forward. It is not. We can and must do much better.

The reality of plastic recycling

Plastic pollutes throughout its creation, existence and eventual waste. It’s synthetic so doesn’t harmonise with nature. It’s toxic and persists in the environment, animals and us. We have only ever managed to recycle 9% of plastics, and a fraction of that effectively. Only a couple of plastics are generally recycled, including in Swindon: PET and HDPE. Degradation through processing means that plastic can only be recycled a few times before being discarded. Virgin plastics are therefore added. Virgin plastics are generally cheaper than recycled, largely due to the proliferation of fracking. Add in the environmental and health impacts of energy use and transportation. In short, plastic recycling doesn’t make sense for the well-being of people, animals, environment or economy.

Plastic mountain

Image is copyright of Deutsche Welle TV. Used under fair usage terms.

Now take into account that the UK may have been overestimating plastic packaging recycling rates and that the UK’s recycling rate has plateaued. Yet the government and councils around the UK, including Swindon Borough Council, continue to focus on recycling, waste incineration and landfill rather than introduce zero waste measures. Why?

Health risks

Our health is on the line. Plastic causes cancers, genetic mutations, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive disorders. It harbours disease! This is why our obscene use of single-use plastic PPE is so ridiculous. We are attempting to contain disease by exacerbating disease. Plastic pollution in the air, soil, water, animals and us. And it’s increasing. This is a huge experiment.



Implement a system which respects the waste hierarchy:

  1. Ditch plastic recycling, waste incineration and landfill: Bad for the health of people, animals, environment.
  2. Develop zero waste systems, using natural materials: Providing jobs, minimising waste and pollution, good for the health of all.

See our take action section.