Finally, Some Good News About Recycling Plastic

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For decades, we kept hearing the go-to slogan of fighting pollution, landfill, and climate catastrophe: ​Reduce, reuse, and recycle.​ It sounds like a great recipe for doing your part as an individual, but in 2019, we got some really dispiriting news — most of the plastics we were dutifully sorting, washing, and tossing into blue bins were going straight to landfill. It turns out recycling plastic is way more complicated and expensive than we were led to believe. Luckily, that could be over sooner than we think.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have just announced major progress in a new kind of plastic that can be recycled multiple times, with no loss in product quality. It's called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, and the scientists involved say that it can be manufactured at scale, which is great news for the planet. We're likely to see it in cars and computers before bottles and takeout containers, but the good news is that big change could be on the way.

Until then, there's plenty you can actually do. Zero-waste advocates, who are champions at green lifestyles, recommend the simplest course, which is actually using the stuff you already own, even if it comes from a "problematic" source. Some of the plastics that have us all in twist are actually a green option in and of themselves, thanks to food waste issues. Some fast food chains are already introducing reusable containers for in-store meals, but until then, if you'd like to keep up sorting and binning, there are fun ways to trick our brains into sticking with the recycling habit.