21 Facts About Recycling Plastics


Plastics are amongst the most versatile and commonly used materials in the world, and whilst no one can deny the profound impact they have had on the last 100 years of human history, our reliance on the various forms of plastic has made developing an efficient method of plastic recycling essential. We have come a long way with regards to recycling plastic in the last 10 years alone, but this may mean that what many consider to be widely known and generally accepted ‘facts’ about recycling plastic are somewhat outdated.

2015 marks the half-way point of the second decade of a new millennium, and we think that now is the perfect time to set the record straight. What follows are 21 of the most up-to-date facts about recycling plastic.

  1. Each year enough plastic is thrown away to circle the earth four times.
  2. Only 12% of the energy required to convert petroleum into plastic is needed to recycle it
  3. A single ton of recycled plastic saves (approximately):
    • 23 cubic metres of space in a landfill
    • 3114 litres of oil
    • 20,786 megajoules of electricity
  4. According to a 2014 study, 2,260,000 tonnes of new plastic packaging was manufactured and introduced to the UK in 2013
  5. Only 45% of plastic bottles in the UK are recycled
  6. Plastic drinking bottles alone can be recycled into duvet fillings, home insulation materials, various items of clothing, bin liners, carrier bags, DVD and video game cases, compost bins, park benches, new bottles and much more!
  7. Almost one third of plastic bottles in America were recycled in 2014
  8. Recycling creates 6 times more jobs than land-filling and 36 times more than incinerating
  9. A recycled product can be back on the shelves again within a single month
  10. Upcycling is a creative (and increasingly popular) method of reusing common plastic objects
  11. PET and HDPE are two of the most easily recycled plastics, followed by PVC and low-density polyethylene
  12. The more compounds used to make a particular type of plastic, the more challenging they are to recycle.
  13. Many of the plastics that are not easy or cost effective to recycle are designed for long-term use and can be re-purposed is they are not broken
  14. Most domestic plastic consumers in the UK recycle less than half their plastic waste, and it makes up approximately 11% of their rubbish bin’s weight.
  15. At our current rate of plastic disposal, for every 1,000,000 tonnes of plastic produced in the UK, approximately 85% of it will end up in a landfill.
  16. 90% of people say they would recycle more if it were made easier
  17. The use of plastic in Western Europe has increased by roughly 4% every year since 2003
  18. 2012 saw over 400,000 tonnes more plastic collected and recycled than in 2002.
  19. 640,613 tonnes of plastic packaging was collected to be recycled in 2012 and it is estimated that by 2017 over 1,213,000 tonnes of plastic packaging in the UK will be recycled annually! However this is still with barely more than 40% of households actively recycling.
  20. Out of all the countries in the UK, Wales has the highest rate of household recycling and Scotland has the lowest. It should be noted however that since 2010 every country in the UK has seen an incremental increase.
  21. The EU environment agency has set targets for all EU countries to be recycling 50% of their waste by 2020. The UK is predicted to be recycling 43% of its plastic waste by then, but overall (including glass, paper, etc.) we are ought to reach, and even exceed, this goal.

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