Could Recycled Products Do Harm?
People have heard the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” They have heard it from school and read it on signs plastered everywhere from parks to shopping malls. It’s been nailed into our memory. In our times, new technologies have come and it gives companies more incentive to recycle. However, are the impacts of recycling really felt? And could recycling actually have negative impacts in the world?
The Merriam-Webster defines recycling as the process in order to regain material for human use. In some schools, children have been taught that PET bottles can be cut in half and be used as makeshift plant plots.
Plastic bottled turned plant pot. Source : Instructables.com
It may be a simple project for children to understand, but the idea of recycling has gone mainstream now. Companies all over the world market themselves as protectors of the environment. Sprite has recently announced a change from a green bottle into a clear one. Although green bottles can be recycled, clear bottles are easier to recycle using mechanical recycling which is the most common method.
Sprite’s new bottle design. Source : thesun.co.uk
Apple prides itself with recycling programs and parts that are fully recyclable. They even have a trade-in system wherein they can take whatever Apple device it may be and in exchange give you a gift card. Daisy is the robot that takes apart the devices to recycle and use them back for more products in the future.
Apple’s Daisy, the recycling robot. Source : Apple
Companies turning to recycling and environmental protection is a good step in the right direction, but could this sensation turn bitter? Uniqlo is another company with a recycling program. They accept clothes and work with the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees and donate it to those who need it most. According to Uniqlo, clothes that are deemed unwearable on the other hand are recycled into plastic fuel ( RPF ) and into refuse paper. There is plenty of technology out there leading to the recycling of goods.
In their path moving forward Uniqlo has announced a new line of clothing made out of recycled plastic bottles. Eco-conscious consumers have been on the rise both in numbers and influence. Uniqlo in partnership with Today Industries Inc plans to sell this product to this crowd. The clothes are made out of plastic which are synthetic fibers instead of natural fibers like cotton and wool.
That is the problem. Clothes made out of synthetic fibers are harmful to the environment when washed. This is because the process of washing clothes causes plastic fibers are to be separated and end up in bodies of water. These synthetic fiber are considered to be microplastics. According to Nature, washing processes of synthetic textiles is one of the primary causes of microplastic pollution.
Uniqlo is not the blame here, plenty of other manufacturers make clothes made out of synthetic fibers - even the clothes you are wearing now may be made out of these fibers. However, if they are to sell to the eco-conscious crowd could this actually be contradictory if the microplastics do pollute the environment?
How is it a big deal if these plastics are too small? What are microplastics and how can they actually harm us if it really is too small for the naked eye to see properly? It’s size is what makes it particularly dangerous compared to other plastics. These microplastics end up in lakes, oceans, and rivers. It eventually leads to small organisms accidentally taking it into their digestive tract. These include fish and other seafood we consume. Microplastics could end up in our body.
Plastic in our bodies is definitely not good news for anyone on the planet, but according to the World Health Organization there is still not enough evidence that shows microplastics in our bodies posing a real threat. They also added that although no significant effect has been studied it is best that people do not remain complacent.
It is good for companies to recycle and make new products that are beneficial to the environment. They have started marketing to the growing number of environmentally aware people. However, the companies themselves should be aware that some forms of recycled products could actually have a side effect of harming the environment.
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