The Story of Plastic
The Story of Plastic
We think we know the end of the story... but that's only the beginning.
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Low-value, single-use plastic is much more likely to end up in the environment.

Low-value, single-use plastic is much more likely to end up in the environment.

Single-layer packaging (plastic film), multi-layer packaging (plastic bonded to a layer of foil), and styrofoam are examples of types of plastic which can’t be feasibly recycled – but which are becoming increasingly common.

Single-layer packaging (plastic film), multi-layer packaging (plastic bonded to a layer of foil), and styrofoam are examples of types of plastic which can’t be feasibly recycled – but which are becoming increasingly common.

Not all plastic is created equal.

Plastic is a remarkably useful material, but too much of plastic is used just once and very little of it gets recycled. Identifying and eliminating these single-use, low-value plastics is the first step to ending plastic pollution.

There are hundreds varieties of plastic, each with different properties and recycling value. Some types of plastic are easier to recycle into other usable products, and therefore command a high value on the recycling market. Because of their value, these “high value” plastics are more likely to be captured and recycled.

Other products have such little value that it isn’t economically feasible to recycle them. This can be a result of the type of plastic used, the size and shape of the product itself, and the conditions of the global recycling market. Plastics with low or no recycling value are far more likely to end up in landfills, in the environment, or being burnt.

Some products, particularly certain food packaging, is made from multi-layer plastic. This means that plastic is bonded to other materials like foil or cardboard. For example, did you know that many hot beverage drinks – like Starbucks coffee cups – aren’t recyclable or compostable due to a thin layer of plastic coating the paper? Once plastic has been bonded to another material to create multi-layer plastic, it can almost never be recycled.

Next: We can end plastic pollution today