Not all plastic is recyclable and not all recyclable plastic is recycled

People are typically confused by the terms, “break down” versus “biodegradable” (or “compostable”). Once plastics are broken down, this merely suggests that one massive piece of plastic is reduced into a bunch of smaller pieces of plastic. These smaller pieces of plastic may be consumed by smaller animals, however are still heavy.

A minority of plastics are “compostable” or “biodegradable”, which suggests they'll be reduced to their chemical parts by, say, your home compost. Different plastics will only be successfully composted by industrial or municipal facilities when first being separated from other, non-biodegradable, plastics.

We found these 'compostable' plastic cups during a recent beach cleanup in New York. 
Don't be misled, single use plastic alternatives like these are still harmful to the environment. These 'bioplastics' are often only compostable in an industrial composting facility - meaning in most cases they just end up in the landfill (because they can't be recycled). Even worse, people are led to believe it's more acceptable to litter these items because of their 'green' messaging. 

The best thing you can do is to REDUCE your plastic consumption in the first place. Follow on Instagram @wildlife_by_yuri
Photo by Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

Unfortunately, most of the people are confused as to which plastics fall into this biodegradable category, and this confusion typically is most apparent once confronted with unfamiliar plastics in unfamiliar places. As an example, are plastic water bottles purchased, say, at the airport biodegradable? Should they be disposed into the bin or into the food waste bin? It’s typically difficult to understand, particularly since very little helpful information is often available to quickly make a decision.

Most plastics last forever

Plastics survive even the harshest conditions, like floating around in a marine environment below blistering, unrelenting sunshine or frozen into Arctic ice for years before finally floating away and landing on some faraway shore. For this reason, plastics can probably outlive humanity itself. In conclusion, plastics could also be co-opted permanently.