Just after I’ve upped my plastic recycling game after reading a book about the horrors of excess plastic, I read an article suggesting that it might all be even more in vain than the book suggested.

The way “rich” countries like the UK often deal with the waste they’ve collected for recycling is not to actually recycle it themselves, but rather just palm it off to any other poorer country that can be exploited to accept it. Then the receiving country has to figure out how to actually deal with it.

But some of these countries are not all that fastidious at ensuring the waste goes where it should. Thus a lot of this plastic we think we’ve sent for recycling actually ends up littering the environment, particularly the sea, anyway.

The author cites a model that suggests that 6,000 of the 37,000 tons of plastic packaging the Netherlands exports each year, mostly to Asia, actually ends up in the marine environment.

Apparently British landfills are fairly good at keeping in what’s deposited in them, if nothing else. So perhaps the real choice we have is between putting waste plastic in the recycle bin knowing that a good amount of it will end up polluting the sea anyway, vs putting it in the general waste bin knowing that it’ll be stuck alongside vast mass of landfill forever - but that’s a relatively “safe” and contained place.

I’m not really sure which the best option is! Both the afore-mentioned book and this article reinforce it’s far more effective to reduce the amount of plastic that’s created in the first place, as opposed to keep making it with the hope that it’ll be recycled.