Where do plastics go?

In Western Europe, around 8% of our household waste is plastic.  But where do all these plastic objects go when they are thrown away?

Some of this plastic waste is ‘natural’ – it is made from renewable resources like cereals and trees. As a result, it will break down rather than remain as plastic.

Some plastics are photodegradable – they break down in sunlight. Others are partly biodegradable – they go mushy when buried and become part of the soil. Some can even be made fully biodegradable, resulting only in water and carbon dioxide.

However, most synthetic plastics do not break down and it is important that we look carefully at the way we dispose of plastic waste.

The European Union recommends the following ‘hierarchy of responsibilities’ when it comes to dealing with waste plastics.

  1. Prevent and reduce the use of plastics.

  2. Reuse plastics.

  3. Recycle the raw material.

  4. Compost.

  5. Recycle to reduce energy demands during manufacture.

  6. Bury them in safe landfill

Landfill is the last resort for plastics at the end of their life