Is the Waste Put Inside of Recycling Bins Actually Recycled?


Reduce, reuse, recycle. But are plastics and other materials actually being recycled? Is waste being put out for recycling actually reused? A lot of plastic items like bags, bottles, and a lot more are now common on streets, waterways, and oceans harming animal life. 


In an interview with the Yorba Linda California recycling services, they stated one way we can reduce waste is “Buying less, using less, and wasting less to start. Reuse rather than throw away. Know what can be recycled and where to place items for proper recycling.” 


Since waste made of plastic takes a long time to decompose and it may not be properly recycled and disposed of, people should try not to use single-use plastic. Single-use plastic products such as water bottles, plastic bags, and cling wrap can be replaced with reusable ones such as metal water bottles and reusable grocery bags. 


In an interview with the Matador Messenger, Yorba Linda Waste and Recycling also stated that “the cleaner the recycled materials the more uses it will have, which is why it is important to empty, clean and dry your recyclables”. 


 In Anaheim, the Yorba Linda CA recycling services can process up to 5,000 tons per day. About 75% of micro recycled materials are pressed into big bales (like hay) by material (plastic, cardboard, aluminum, etc) and used by companies to make new products


According to the BBC, plastics are “sorted, cleaned, shredded, melted and remolded.” Most recycled items go through this process. Even though the object is being recycled, it can only be recycled a few times. So does ‘recycled’ mean the item was actually recycled?


 National Geographic states that “each time plastic is recycled, additional virgin material is added to help ‘upgrade’ its quality…”. Overall, plastic is not actually recycled. If the object is dirty, there is no way that it is going to get recycled because it has to maintain its quality. National Geographic claims that “recycled materials (i.e. your trash) must compete with virgin materials in the market.”


As many people are aware, waste that isn’t managed properly ends up in waterways and pollutes our environment. As Society states, “…litter makes its way into the ocean from land.” Society also states that “debris is carried by storm drains, canals, or rivers.” The reason oceans have high numbers of plastic is that it takes around 450 years for plastic to degrade. 


Plastic Oceans claims that “… around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away”. Something even more shocking is that around one trillion plastic bags are used annually on earth. That’s around 2 million every minute. In addition, people only use single-use plastics for around 15 minutes. Californians Against Waste says that the “recycling rate for all single-use plastic items remains less than 15% overall.” This isn’t good news because plastic takes so long to decompose and it can only be recycled a few times. 


According to Consumer Reports, in 2018, only about 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S. which has not changed since 2021, 16% has been incinerated and the rest is littered, in landfills, or in the ocean. IUCN says that “At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic debris is currently the most abundant type of litter in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris found”.


 In an interview with the Matador Messenger, the Yorba Linda, CA Waste and Recycling Services (YLWRS) shares that Recycled products are used by companies to make new products such as carpets, clothes and toys.