The Urgent Need for Overhauling Plastic Recycling Systems and the Importance of Sustainable Materials

Alfred Tang

Alfred Tang

Mar 17, 20243 min read


The Urgent Need for Overhauling Plastic Recycling Systems and the Importance of Sustainable Materials


Plastic recycling systems have long been deemed "failed" due to their inability to effectively address the complex mixtures of chemicals found in plastics. While plastics are commonly labeled by their polymer type, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), they contain a wide range of additional chemicals, including processing aids, colorings, flame retardants, and plasticizers. Moreover, unintentional additions during manufacturing or use further complicate the recycling process and can have a detrimental impact on its efficiency. In this article, we will explore the urgent need for an overhaul of plastic recycling systems and the importance of incorporating sustainable materials.

The Complexity of Plastics:

Plastics, despite their seemingly simple classification, are far more intricate than they appear. The presence of various chemicals, such as processing aids and flame retardants, makes it challenging to effectively recycle them. These chemicals not only hinder the recycling process but also pose environmental and health risks. For instance, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) regulated under the Stockholm Convention can accumulate in recycled plastics, leading to long-term toxicity concerns. It is crucial to address these complexities to make plastic recycling systems more efficient and sustainable.

The Role of Sustainable Materials:

One way to address the challenges posed by the complexity of plastics is by incorporating sustainable materials. The Apple September event in 2023 unveiled a remarkable innovation in this regard. They introduced microtwill made of 68 percent post-consumer recycled content, significantly reducing carbon emissions. This development showcases the potential of sustainable materials in mitigating the environmental impact of plastic production and consumption.

Connecting the Dots:

The connection between the urgent need for an overhaul of plastic recycling systems and the introduction of sustainable materials is evident. By incorporating sustainable materials like the microtwill introduced by Apple, we can potentially reduce the use of complex plastics that are difficult to recycle. This, in turn, would alleviate the burden on recycling systems, making them more efficient and effective. Additionally, sustainable materials promote a circular economy by reducing the need for virgin plastic production, minimizing the environmental footprint in the long run.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Support Initiatives for Plastic Recycling Overhaul: Individuals and organizations can actively support initiatives aimed at overhauling plastic recycling systems. This can be done through lobbying for stronger regulations, investing in research and development, or even participating in local recycling programs. By advocating for change, we can contribute to the improvement of plastic recycling practices.
  • 2. Choose Sustainable Alternatives: As consumers, we have the power to drive demand for sustainable materials and products. By consciously opting for alternatives made from recycled or bio-based materials, we can encourage businesses to invest in sustainable practices. This shift in consumer behavior can create a ripple effect, pushing more industries to adopt environmentally friendly solutions.
  • 3. Educate and Raise Awareness: Education plays a crucial role in bringing about meaningful change. By raising awareness about the complexities of plastic recycling and the importance of sustainable materials, we can empower individuals to make informed choices. Sharing information through social media, organizing workshops, or engaging in community discussions can help spread awareness and inspire action.


The urgent need for an overhaul of plastic recycling systems is evident, considering the complex mixtures of chemicals present in plastics. To address this issue, the incorporation of sustainable materials, such as the microtwill introduced by Apple, holds great promise. By supporting initiatives for plastic recycling overhaul, choosing sustainable alternatives, and educating others, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future. It is time to recognize the importance of sustainable materials and work towards creating a circular economy that minimizes our reliance on complex and difficult-to-recycle plastics.

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