The Plastic Recycling Myth

Vijay Violet
3 min readSep 26, 2023

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Disposable plastic water bottles and a reusable one

My grandma was against wastefulness, not the least because it is more economical when we waste less. Wasting less also means less harm to the environment around us, both in terms of avoiding the production cost and impact on the environment of what is wasted along with the cost and damage of waste disposal.

That our waste is colossal is indisputable. Seneca Meadows, euphemistically named, is a hill of dumped waste that spans 300 acres and is as tall as the Statue of Liberty at 300 feet. It is near Seneca Falls, a town in the Finger Lakes region that is credited with the Women’s Suffrage movement in America. It is in the State of New York and about three quarters of that waste comes from New York City. The seepage from the waste into local streams of water pollutes, harming all lives. Seneca Meadows is not the exception. It is the rule, here in America and everywhere on the planet.

While all waste is bad, metal and paper are recycled far more successfully than plastics, where recycling is more a myth than reality. The environmental damage of waste from single-use plastics is among the worst. The plastics leak chemicals forever into their surroundings, harming marine life, wildlife on land, and our own lives. In America, recyclable plastics have a special sign and are numbered from 1 to 7, giving consumers the mistaken impression that they are recycled. Whereas almost all plastics with higher numbers go into landfill, because such recycling machinery is not widely available, less than half of plastics with lower numbers 1 and 2, PET or water bottle plastics are recycled.

The recycling rate of PET plastic bottles in India is apparently twice the American rate, but the waste is still staggering because of large usage, at about 300,000 tons of PET plastics per year. On my trips to India, like most infrequent visitors, I am excessively cautious of local drinking water. On the latest trip, I avoided water bottles as far as possible by boiling and cooling my own water when at home and resorting to hot water or drinks when eating out or traveling.

A solution in America and India and everywhere starts with us making it a practice of taking a filled reusable water bottle every time we leave home. And seeking alternatives to bottled drinks and food items packaged with plastics or just packaged excessively, whenever or wherever possible. Together we can make it uncool to use disposable plastics and bottles!

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Vijay Violet

I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.