Are You Falling For These Common Misconceptions About Plastic Recycling

January 15, 2024
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The forces of globalisation have pushed the use of plastics to remarkable heights. Be it packaging or products, its universality is proof of innovation… and a forerunner of environmental challenges. The relationship of dependency on plastic and its link with the forces of globalisation is elaborate and complex. It is no wonder then, that we as a civilisation find ourselves at a crossroads. Plastic once hailed as a symbol of modern convenience, now stands as a mighty challenge to our planet's well-being. An ever-growing skyline of plastic-filled landscapes, oceans choking on discarded bottles, and a complex web of global trade tied to this synthetic material.

Statistics grimly reveal that a staggering 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since its debut, with only a meagre 9% of all plastic ever produced being recycled, leaving an alarming 91% polluting the environment.

Despite growing awareness, we find ourselves at a standstill in plastic recycling. This is concerning simply because it is our frontline of attack in reducing the environmental impact. “The world urgently needs to rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage plastic.” This observation made in “The State of Plastics” Document by the United Nations Environment Program is as clear as it can be.

So then, “What is the need of the hour?”, you may ask. Well, to us, it's a call to choose clarity over confusion, informed decisions over assumptions, awareness over ignorance, and action over a false sense of security. The need of the hour is to empower ourselves with knowledge. It's a plea to cut through the fog of misinformation surrounding plastic recycling. To that effect, let’s set some records straight.

1. All Plastics Can be Recycled Equally

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to recycling not all plastics are created equally. India faces the challenge of categorising and processing various plastic types. Statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicate that only about 60% of the plastic waste generated in India is recycled, emphasising the need for a more systematic approach to handling different types of plastics.

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2. All Plastic Products with the Recycling Symbol are Recyclable

The presence of a recycling symbol does not guarantee a plastic product's recyclability in India. The system's effectiveness varies across regions and is often hindered by inadequate infrastructure.

3. Recycling is Economically Burdensome and Inefficient

There is a prevailing belief that recycling in India is economically burdensome and inefficient. On the contrary, a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) suggests that investing in recycling infrastructure can generate economic value and employment opportunities. And we already have the traditional systems of waste collection and segregation in place. Recognising the economic benefits can boost support for policies promoting sustainable waste management practices.

4. Recycling Only Happens in Urban Areas

There's a common belief that recycling facilities are confined to urban areas, leaving rural regions neglected. Contrary to this, various initiatives and decentralised recycling units are emerging in rural India. These efforts promote a more widespread, inclusive approach to combat plastic pollution.

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5. Using Recycled Plastic is Inferior to Virgin Plastic

Some argue that products made from recycled plastic are of lower quality compared to those made from virgin plastic. However, advancements in technology and recycling processes have significantly improved the quality of recycled plastic. In fact, products made from recycled materials are at par with their virgin plastic counterparts. Debunking this myth promotes the adoption of recycled materials in manufacturing, promoting a more sustainable production cycle.

6. It's Too Late to Make a Difference

A common belief is that the plastic problem in India has reached a point of no return. This may just be an attempt at delay initiative. In fact, every effort counts, and positive changes are achievable with collective action. The Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 in India, combined with increased public awareness, represent a commitment to change. Dismissing the notion that it's too late empowers individuals and communities to actively participate in creating a healthier, more sustainable future.

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To drive change in plastic recycling, individuals and companies alike must make significant strides. Companies such as JB Ecotex and JBrPET play a pivotal role by manufacturing high-quality recycled PET products such as Recycled Polyester Staple Fibre, chemically recycled B2B rPET resins, textile-grade rPET resins and rPET flakes. Simultaneously, Nirmal Vasundhara's commitment to end-to-end waste management, especially in compliance with Extended Producer Responsibility, highlights the collective responsibility in tackling environmental challenges. These companies illustrate that, whether on an individual or collective level, dedicated efforts contribute substantially to a more sustainable and responsible approach to plastic recycling.