One of the most important missions for OJOOK is to eliminate single use plastic.
WHAT IS SINGLE USE PLASTIC?
Single use plastics are exactly what they sound like - plastic that ends in landfills after only one use because it cannot be recycled for another purpose. Single use plastics are pretty ubiquitous, from the straws, individual food wrappers in grocery stores, to the plastic bags you use to order takeout. There are some necessary uses for single use plastics (e.g. surgical gloves) but the majority of single use plastics are simply unnecessary or can be replaced with much more eco-friendly materials.
By debunking common recycling myths about plastic industry, OJOOK aims to create more awareness and transparency around the company’s decision to eliminate single-use plastic from our product line. We do not want to be a part of the plastic pollution - the 91.6 percent of plastic that ends up in landfills each year to be exact.
Myth 1. All plastics are created equal.
Not all plastics are created equal, in fact there are seven types of plastic categories of them. And long story short, the higher the number, the harder it is to recycle and the worse it is for the environment.
Plastic toothpaste tubes are one of the most common items incorrectly put in a recycling bin. Typically, the tubes are made of LDPE plastics (category 4), or lined inside with metal layers (mixed plastic = category 7) and nearly impossible to be recycled, especially when combined with contamination issue (see Myth 2).
Category 1: PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate, PET or PETE or Polyester)
- Can be recycled but only 25%
- The most commonly used plastics, intended for single-use applications like water bottles.
Category 2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
- Can be recycled but only 30-35%
- Stiff plastic, relatively simple and cost-effective process.
Category 3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
- CANNOT be recycled.
- Known as the “poison plastic” and less than 1% of PVC plastic is recycled. It’s soft, flexible plastic used to make clear food wrapping, children’s and pet toys and cooking oil bottles.
Category 4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
- Can sometimes be recycled.
- LDPE is found in plastic films like dry cleaner garment bags and plastic bags. It is not commonly recycled and should be checked with your local collection service to see if LDPE is accepted for recycling.
Category 5: PP (Polypropylene)
- Can sometimes be recycled but only 3%
- PP is commonly used for disposable diapers, plastic bottle caps, yogurt cups.
Category 6: PS (Polystyrene)
- Can sometimes be recycled.
- Used for styrofoam cups, take-out containers, foam packaging. Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products and this plastic accounts for 35% of U.S. landfill.
Category 7: Other (BPA, Polycarbonate, and LEXAN)
- Not likely be recycled.
- This is the code used when it’s made out of mixed materials or not known.
Takeaway: Look for products that use #1 PETE or #2 HDPE category. Avoid #3 and above at all costs. Do not toss unrecyclable categories out of guilt.
Myth 2. If a piece of plastic has a recycling logo of #1 PETE or #2 HDPE category plastics, then it is 100% recyclable.
Answer: Mostly false, due to contamination
Most of us were probably taught that any plastic would be collected on the curbside, then magically recycled to new products. A major concern that is commonly unknown is contamination, which significantly reduces the value of recyclable materials and renders them non-recyclable and end in landfills. Conservatively speaking, the average contamination rate in the United States is 25 percent, which means that one in four recyclables collected on the curbside is contaminated, and being mixed in with good recyclables.
Takeaway: Be sure to wash your plastics and take out mixed materials from the plastic (paper labels, metal decoration, stickers etc) to place only clean plastics in your recycling bin to ensure they don’t end up in landfills.
Myth 3. Bioplastics, or Biodegradable plastic is more eco-friendly than conventional plastics and can be broken down completely in the environment.
Answer: Mostly false and it’s complicated.
The term “Biodegradable” is not a regulated term whereas “compostable” is. The sad reality is that the term “biodegradable” is abused to greenwash many products, such as straws, cups, disposable utensils, grocery bags, etc. Simply put, these seemingly “eco-friendly” plastics will not break down in the environment due to 2 main reasons.
1. Bio-based plastics (plastics made at least partly from biological matter). In this case, the plastic is synthetically made out of more renewable sources (corn, sugarcane, pineapple, etc) than conventional plastics made out of petroleum. The resulting bioplastics are chemically identical to their fossil counterparts and therefore will not break down easily just like the regular plastics.
2. Biodegradable plastics can be completely broken down, but ONLY in very specific conditions, such as the right combination of temperature, pH, oxygen level, UV, etc. Most of them will end up in a wrong environment (landfills or ocean) and will not easily break down. To make matters worse, these plastics are category #7 plastics and cannot be recycled.
Not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. And biodegradable plastics almost never biodegrade unless the specific condition is perfectly met. It definitely is very confusing.
Takeaway: Avoid using any bio-plastic or biodegradable plastics at all cost. Always look for compostable signs, not biodegradable on a package.
Myth 4. Recycling is consistent across the United States.
There are more than 9,800 individual recycling programs across the United States, each with its own rules and policies. The Consumer Brands Association, which represents the world’s leading consumer packaged goods companies, states that only 68 percent of 2,056 U.S. surveyed adults were unaware that recycling programs varied by city.
Since China’s 2018 ban on imported recyclable materials, the United States has found it difficult to find buyers that are willing to purchase the recyclable materials. With fewer buyers in the market, recycling facilities are having a harder time selling their recycled materials, which makes it harder for them to cover their process costs. Recycling companies are recouping lost profits by charging municipalities more for their recycling services, in some cases four times what they charged in previous years.
According to the Sierra Club, an environmental organization in the United States, “Stamford, Connecticut, went from earning $95,000 from its recyclables in 2017 to paying $700,000 in 2018 to get rid of them”. Unfortunately, the increasing charges to recycle has caused cities such as Philadelphia, Memphis, and Deltona to completely cancel their recycling programs in 2019.
Find out more how your state was affected: Waste Dive
When it comes to making purposeful products, OJOOK started by considering the circularity of product development. We designed for the end of life of a product by developing solutions to repurpose, reuse, and recycle our products.
Rather than producing and consuming more virgin plastic, our solution is to package the OJOOK toothpaste in tubes made of aluminum. Aluminum is the most recyclable material of all time, and can achieve a 32 percent reduction in energy consumption over its lifetime. The cap is made of HDPE plastic category #2, which is fully recyclable when separated and placed in the recycling bin for plastics.
To learn more about OJOOK’s sustainability please click here.