How low oil prices affect plastic recycling

Oil prices are their lowest since 2003. As a result, it’s now much cheaper to run our cars. Most of us are pretty happy about that. But how does the price of oil affect plastic recycling? We explain in this post.

Where does plastic come from?

Plastic is derived from petroleum. So, when oil prices sink, so does the price of plastic resin. “Great,” I hear you say. “Plastic products are cheaper, too.” Yes, they are. But here’s the problem: It’s now cheaper for manufacturers to buy virgin plastic resin than recycled plastic.

So, if, like us at Pink Bins, you care about recycling, this is not good news.

Why is the price of oil so low?

Like anything, oil prices are dictated by supply and demand. The USA has almost doubled oil production in recent years, and at the same time, demand has declined worldwide, largely due to a sinking Chinese economy. 

So, supply is up and demand is down.

Plastic: a tough sell

To make things worse, plastic has never been an easy product to recycle. There is a multitude of sizes and types, which causes confusion about what can be recycled and what can’t. As a result, bales of plastic get contaminated with unrecyclable material. Weeding it out increases recycling costs. 

Why is plastic bad again?

As innocuous as it may seem, plastic is devastating to the environment. And it can take a shocking 500 – 1000 years to decompose. When it does break down, toxic chemicals contaminate the earth. Plastic products are so ubiquitous that some believe that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish!

Now, that’s a sobering thought.

What can we do?

Let’s face it: There’s not much any of us can do about oil prices. However, we can reduce the amount of plastic we use.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use recyclable or reusable shopping bags.
  • Bulk buy groceries and use recyclable containers.
  • When you can, buy products in glass or steel containers (they are easier to recycle).
  • Drink or food pouches are never recyclable, so don’t buy them.
  • Avoid #3 (food wrap, detergent bottles) and #7 (baby and water cooler bottles) plastics.

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