Rethinking Recycling: Putting Plastics into Perspective

I used to be pretty proud of our recycling efforts. Every week, Robby and I would stuff our recycling bin to the max, and then a special truck would come by and take our recyclables to a holding facility. There, the items would wait patiently until a representative from a kind corporation would come by and give them a second chance at life. Or so I imagined.

The more Robby and I recycled, the less we contributed to the local landfill. I thought we were doing well…until I read an article by Plastic Panda entitled “How Recycling Failed.”

Here’s the gist.

In the beginning, recycling centers opened to provide a place to collect used materials and then sell them to corporations to be recycled into new products. However, companies have failed to embrace this process, electing to manufacture new materials (often at a cheaper price) rather than recycle the old. With few consumers and a stockpile of used materials, recycling centers around the world are now closing.

Although there are several types of materials that can be recycled, single-use plastics are taking much of the blame, and for good reason. You’ve probably heard of some states passing laws to eliminate or tax plastic straws or single-use plastic bags. Yes, it sounds extreme, but it seems we are dealing with an extreme situation.

  • Virtually every plastic ever produced still exists.
  • There are now giant, floating islands of plastic in every major ocean of the world.
  • Half of all plastics produced are single-use products.
  • 91% of plastics are not recycled back into usable products (meaning they will exist forever)
  • 9 out of 10 sea birds have plastic in their stomachs, and marine life is dying at an alarming rate

Plastic Panda cites these and many more statistics, but I think you get the point.

Why Should You Care?

This may sound like a dumb question, but I know people who act like this doesn’t affect them, and perhaps it doesn’t…yet.

So why should they care? Because the Bible says so.

‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth”‘ (Genesis 1:26-28 NAS).

God gave man dominion over His creation—not that we would destroy it with apathy and hubris but that we would take care of it. As Christians, then, we should be especially aware of our impact on the environment and engaged in ways to make that impact positive instead of negative.

What Can You Do?

We live in a commercial society, which means our money talks. If we stop using plastic items, corporations will stop making them. Then we won’t have a need for recycling centers…not for plastic items, anyway.

With that in mind, here are the top two things you can do today to reduce your plastic footprint.

1 – Avoid plastics, especially single-use items, whenever possible. If you like to grab your cold coffee in the afternoon, pack your own stainless steel straw. (Here’s a neat set for a great price on Amazon.) Don’t worry about getting funny looks—you won’t be the only one pulling a straw out of your purse.

As for grocery shopping, we all know we can bring reusable shopping bags to the store. But what about the plastic bag in the cereal box or the plastic bag holding your favorite coffee blend? You can avoid all of this by filling your own containers in the bulk aisle of your grocery store. Click here to find out which of your local stores offer bulk products. One thing to keep in mind: not all stores allow you to bring your own containers, so be sure to ask a manager before you dig in.

2 – Recycle what you can. It’s not practical to think you can give up all plastic items at once. It’s a lifestyle change, and it takes time. For those plastic items you still purchase, recycle whatever you can. However, do your research to determine the kinds of plastics and other products your recycling center accepts. If you include something they can’t use, they may throw the entire bin in the landfill.

I’ve been researching the “plastic-free” and “zero waste” lifestyles for awhile now, and I’ve implemented several changes in my house that have made a big impact on our waste footprint. I’ll be sharing some of these tips (including some DIY instructions) in upcoming posts. For now, check out the nearly 300 practical ideas I’ve curated in my Pinterest Board “Minimalism & Zero Waste”:

Got any plastic-free or zero waste tips you can share? Leave it in a comment below to encourage other readers. Thanks!

Author: Ashley L Jones

I love encouraging people, whether that means digging into the Bible or making a homemade meal in cast iron. Check out the About section of my blog ( for more details. Thanks for stopping by!

2 thoughts

  1. Ashley, thanks for highlighting this issue! I am with you all the way. For a while now, I’ve been doing what I can to limit my use of single use plastics. I have metal straws, keep a set of silverware in my car, etc. I often buy used items – thus avoiding packaging. But at some point there is only so much a consumer can do as you can’t buy everything used and so many items are encased in so much packaging plastic. I do see signs some companies are making changes. For example, I needed to buy bed sheets for the first time in ages and saw some sheets in a cloth wrap rather than those plastic zip things. I needed a shower curtain and found one made from partly recycled products, and it was hanging for sale on a CARDBOARD hanger rather than a plastic one! Yeah! I also just bought bamboo toothbrushes. I recently ordered several bras online and was horrified they arrived with each bra un-necessarily encased in plastic and they were all mailed in a plastic mailer. UGH!!! I called the company and politely complained about the excess plastic packaging and shared my concern about the environment, etc. Again, thanks for your post!! We are also eating/drinking micro-plastic as tiny plastic particles are being found in many things we consume. Think about the oceans filled with plastic, water ends up in sky, it rains, etc.

    1. Laura, thank you so much for your comment! It sounds like you’re doing an awesome job reducing your plastic footprint. You’re right that companies are starting to change their ways, but they only do that when our spending habits require it. Good for you for calling that company to complain about the excess plastic in the packaging. I read that you can request minimal packaging with Amazon if you do bulk shopping. I haven’t tried it yet, but the place you fill out the form is Mama Eco. Here’s the link: If you try it, I’d love to hear about your experience. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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