The impact of plastic pollution
There are real reasons for concern about what happens when plastic leaks into the environment. At least eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year, the equivalent of one garbage truck per minute. There is estimated to be more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the oceans.
The plastic pollution ending up in the oceans is having a devastating effect on marine life. Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds a year, and emaciated whales are washing up on beaches with stomachs full of plastic. Microplastics consumed by sea life – and the chemicals associated with those plastics – are working their way up the food chain to humans.
Reports suggest that roughly 80% of all plastic waste found in our oceans comes from land. Ocean and shoreline clean-ups can have an impact on the plastics and litter already in waterways and oceans, but ultimately the world needs to find ways to “turn off the tap” on land – to stop plastics getting into the oceans in the first place. That is why plastic pollution is particularly close to TOMRA’s heart, and where TOMRA seeks to contribute through enabling proven solutions to litter like deposit return systems.
Getting in the loop
A discarded plastic bottle is double waste: not only does it end up polluting nature or landfills, but it also loses its opportunity to be recycled again and again into a new bottle.
When a used bottle is returned to a TOMRA reverse vending machine for recycling, often as part of deposit return systems, it is kept separate from other kinds of waste and avoids contamination that might make it more complex and costly to recycle. With the container materials remaining pure and of a high quality, they can be turned back into another plastic bottle in a “closed loop”. This means the material can more easily stay in the loop rather than getting downcycled or thrown away; it also reduces the need to extract virgin oil resources to produce new plastic bottles. TOMRA calls the continuous cycle of bottle-to-bottle recycling “Clean Loop Recycling”, and we are striving for as many beverage containers to be kept in the Loop as possible. Currently only 2% of all the world’s plastic packaging is recycled in a closed loop.
TOMRA captures over 40 billion drink containers each year for recycling through its approximately 80,000 reverse vending installations across more than 60 markets. “Seven out of every 10 reverse vending solutions worldwide are produced by TOMRA – but our over 40 billion collected containers only represent 3% of global beverage packaging sold, so there is much more that we can do together to divert containers from landfill and nature,” explained Head of TOMRA Collection, Harald Henriksen. “This number has to improve to meet future demand for recycled material and to keep used beverage containers from ending up where they don’t belong.”
TOMRA also provides solutions for sorting mixed waste for recycling. This technology sorts all types of plastic materials, and can also sort the materials by color to provide pure sorting results and pure end products (such as PET, PE etc.). These sorted materials are then further processed and recycled by our partners.