Most of us put more plastics than we should in our recycling bins. We are what is known as “wishful recyclers”. We mean well. We mean really, really well!
But we’re actually doing more harm than good since we’re more likely to indulge in single-use plastics if we think they’re going to be recycled.
But what if I told you most single-use plastic is NOT RECYCLED. Only 9% of plastic ever produced has been given a second life. For not all plastic is created equal.
Plastic comes from crude oil. The temperature at which it is made determines its type and there are hundreds of variations.
In the 1980s, the plastics industry categorised plastics 1-7. These Resin Identification Codes (RICs) were originally intended for the professional recyclers. Somewhere along the way, it fell to us consumers to interpret those numbers in our amateur recycling and we’re supposed to just know this stuff? For goodness sake, we can barely even see that little triangle with a number in it!
This faintly embossed number, stamped somewhere on the plastic item, holds the key to its future. Recycling bin or rubbish bin.
There is a campaign for clearer labelling, but until that happens, here on the right is a handy guide.
IN YOUR RECYCLING BIN
Bottles. Numbers 1 and 2 are the recyclable highflyers. Remove the caps and labels if you want to be extra helpful.
Clamshells. Ahhh berries. Such a staple in our house. Thankfully their clamshell packaging is recyclable.
Cling film. Thin plastics like this are accepted in Qatar but be careful, because plastic bags of all types are not.
Takeaway tubs: Number 5 type plastic is accepted, including the black plastic takeaway containers. Just please clean out the vindaloo.
OUT OF YOUR RECYCLING BIN
Contaminated plastics. Sure, the plastics get washed, but is someone going to scrape out a crust of mouldy mayonnaise from the bottom of your bottle? Not they are not! Straight to landfill.
Layered plastics. Your snack wrapper may feel suspiciously like plastic, but don’t be fooled. If it is fused with foil and wax and paper, is it going to get separated? No it is not! Straight to landfill.
Plastic bags. Qatar does not recycle plastic bags. Some countries do, but not here. This may change, but for now your shopping bags, bread bags, rice bags, vegetable bags… so. many. bags… all to landfill.
No marking. If you can’t find the little triangle, even with your glasses on, chances are it’s not there. Recyclers won’t risk contamination. Straight to landfill.
Polystyrene. Anything you can leave teeth marks in. Straight to landfill.
So what happens to the hero plastic that can be recycled?
It gets washed, sorted and shredded. Qatar’s plastic recycling industry is in its infancy so the vast majority of your recyclables get shipped in the form of pellets to India.
There they get converted into a material called rPET and they live their new life as t-shirts, shoes, even EcoSouk produce bags.
Written 15th June, 2021