No matter how many times you reuse that single-use plastic water bottle, at some point it will end up with the rest of the recycling in the grey bag. You might think that it will be bundled together with other plastics and eventually processed to be recycled. But the reality is that since it is meant for single-use, the quality of the plastic degrades and it is generally down-cycled into lower quality, lesser-value plastic.

This means that this water bottle is not recycled into a new water bottle. Instead, it might become a poly-cotton fabric such as fleece, which is non-recyclable. So, plastic can only be recycled once, and that’s it. Another problem with recycling plastic is that virgin plastic pellets must be added to the lower grade plastics. So, say, to make a new yoghurt container from recycled plastic, only a small portion will actually be coming from recycled plastic with the majority being from new plastic. So in reality, we are not recycling plastic but simply adding some recycled plastic to new plastic. Translating into more plastic use.

Another problem is plastic containers used for laundry detergent and shampoo. Intense and dark-coloured plastics are difficult if not impossible to reuse. Think of it in terms of mixing paint. The darker the paint, the more difficult it is to change it to a lighter colour. In general, only white or natural plastic is of high enough value to bother putting it through the recycling process. So that bright-coloured container might end up in a landfill all the same. Whenever possible, choose products that are in white or clear containers.

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