Most of us who care about the environment are into recycling. It’s heavily promoted by the government, manufacturers, retailers and most environmental groups. This has led to steadily climbing recycling rates – recent figures show that around 40% of disposed household bottles in the UK are collected for recycling.
The logic of recycling is not consistent across different material types. For example, it makes a good sense to recycle aluminium cans, but the logic for recycling plastic homecare bottles is less clear.
Let’s see what happens to that plastic washing up liquid bottle you put out for recycling.
And finally these pellets are re-manufactured into another washing up liquid bottle? No.
Owing to ‘taint’ (the residue left from home and personal care products) only bottles containing drinks can be recycled into other bottles. So your washing up liquid bottle gets turned into something like a fleece or a road traffic cone. In other words it’s not recycled, it’s ‘down-cycled’. And when this new product comes to the end of its life? It can be down-cycled no further and ends up in landfill.
The sad fact is: every plastic home cleaning and laundry bottle ultimately goes to landfill – and that’s not something you would imagine happens from looking at that neat little recycling logo.
So when a bottle is made from recycled material, the material used is usually either ‘pre- consumer’ waste (in other words un-used bottles) or former drinks bottles. Milk bottles are often used as they provide a consistent source of material with little contamination. This means that a recycling logo on a home cleaning product bottle does not stop the manufacture of another home cleaning bottle the next time you buy the product. It’s an illogical system and we can do so much better.