The recycling of plastics has numerous environmental benefits. Recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging saves 1.5 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide.

A report released by the Environment Agency in February 2011 found that ordinary shopping bags are actually greener than supposedly low impact choices. Plastic bags have a much better carbon footprint than cotton holdalls and paper bags. Paper and cotton bags should be reused at least 3 and 131 times respectively to ensure they have a lower carbon footprint. The plastic bag also has a better carbon footprint than “bio-degradable” or “oxo-degradable” bags.

Clearly if the plastic bags are later recovered for mechanical recycling then the footprint improves even further.

The use of plastics actually saves energy and other resources as a result of:

  • Lighter containers for transport and packaging: paper, glass and metals are heavier, requiring more energy to transport and more resources to produce;
  • Preservation of foodstuffs: typically 4-5 times the life of unpreserved foods;
  • The ability to recycle plastics: the vast majority of plastics can be mechanically recycled.

By recycling plastics in the UK, the carbon footprint is also better than shipping the waste plastics overseas to China and elsewhere for reprocessing.

The increasing recycling of plastics is an important step for the planet as we aim for the optimal resource efficiency of a “circular economy”.