Was recycling the biggest swindle of the past 20 years?

Mar 01, 2021

Prenote: I am not saying Recycling is a bad thing, but our current main stream systems of recycling have failed us.

In July 2019 The Guardian shared an article titled “Humans have made 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic since 1950” If you missed it the link is at the end of this blog.

The Current Situation

The article stated that up until then we had no idea how much plastic we had created and now that we know, the picture is not pretty.  8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been created from 1950 to 2015, that is a terrifying statistic. It is the equivalent to the weight of 1 Billion elephants!

However the worst element of this, is that only 30% of the plastic created is still in use. The rest has been disposed of in three ways: 79% is in our landfills and environment, 12% has been incinerated and only 9% has been recycled. Amongst all this dismal data, what really got me thinking, is that half of the amount of plastic generated since 1950, was actually made in the last 15 years. That means over 4 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been made - in just 15 years.

Why has our production increased so exponentially without anyone raising the flag of revolution about it? I include myself in this, I am now 40 years old, so I consider myself now as part of the “plastic generation”.

My generation has allowed this to happen right under our noses. Not only have we allowed it, we have in fact encouraged it through the continuous increase in our consumption of single use plastics, non recyclable plastics, over packaging, etc.

A couple of years ago in my blog, I spoke about the baguette I used to go and buy in my childhood that had no packaging at all. It has really been something I have kept in my memory after all this time. Something positive that I associate with the time I grew up in.

The times changed at a ferocious speed, right before my very own eyes and I never gave it a second thought. Why is that? Why did we allow this?

Society from early on was made to believe that plastic was the mother of all inventions, this awe inspiring material that had come to drag us out from the dark ages and more than that - it was recyclable and therefore it never posed a danger to our environment.

Increasing our plastic in ignorant bliss.

I still remember the years when a household would only have one bin - one bin! These days, every house has 2 to 4 bins.

We used to put all of our waste into that one bin, that would then be collected by the public waste management company. When recycling started to become a “thing”, we were all told to put all of our plastic, no matter if it was hard or soft plastic, newspapers, cardboard and cans into the recycling bin. And this continued for years and years.

We were never told recycling items need to be washed, dry and loose before going into the correct bin.

We were never told that the majority of plastic we were putting in the bin would not be recycled.

We all lived in ignorant bliss, thinking it did not matter how much our waste was increasing because as long as it was plastic, it would be recycled.

Do you agree?

Plastic manufacturers were able to up their production and fatten heir wallets under the guise of recycling. If their product was recyclable and cheaper than other products, why not produce more and more?

Plastic production jumped from 2 million metric tonnes in 1950 to over 400 Million metric tonnes in 2015, that is a 20,000% increase in plastic production in just 65 years.

Fast forward to the present and only in the past couple of years has it been revealed to society that in fact, recycling is not enough.

You need to make sure only the correct items go into your recycling bin, soft plastics are not recyclable, everything has to be washed and dried and loose in your bin.

What the hell??

So what happened to the items I thought I had recycled in the past 10 years?

I feel so cheated.

I thought I was doing my bit all along. I did not care about the continued increase of packaging in my life because I thought it was all recyclable. If I was on the road and I bought 2 plastic bottles of water, I did not care because I would put them in my recycling bin. And that would be that.

And now? The last time I forgot to bring my reusable bottle in the car I felt so guilty and refused to buy bottled water. So I spent 2 hours in a hot car, parched and arriving home with a headache.

Today, 1 MILLION plastic bottles of water are bought EVERY MINUTE in the world. Let me say that again, 1 MILLION PER MINUTE. And the blame is falling on the consumer, on people like me who for years were told that those same bottles will be recycled.

So why did nobody explain to us the reality of recycling sooner?

Why did they allow the problem to become out of control, near catastrophic.

More importantly, who knew recycling was the biggest swindle of the past 20 years?  

Until Next Week! Sign up to my weekly thought of the week HERE


If you want to read more about Recycling statistics check out our colleagues at Comfyliving.com Blog HERE

Disclaimer: I still firmly believe that waste segregation in households and businesses is necessary and I do not discourage recycling,  just because our recycling is not been dealt with properly it does not mean we need to stop our own waste segregation. Let it be their fault not yours. I also encourage everyone to learn how to minimise their waste as this is the only solution to improve our waste situation. 






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