The life cycle of plastic is usually linear
While plastic typically requires lower energy to initially produce than aluminum, thereby emitting less greenhouse gases in the production process, it mostly ends up in landfills or the environment when the user is done with it. A majority of consumer product plastic cannot be recycled because the infrastructure or technology to properly recycle is not available. This is where producer responsibility plays an important role.
In our packaging design process, we decided reusability and recyclability were important to us. The reality is, while most plastic packaging is made of recyclable material, it does not get recycled.
Just because something says recyclable, doesn't mean it gets recycled.
The most recycled plastic types in the United States are #1 and #2. Plastics #3-7 have little to no recyclability because they have negligible value. In many cases, these plastics cannot be broken down and reused, so there is no demand to buy them. Because they have negligible intrinsic value, there is no economic driver to recycle the plastic. Therefore, the plastic is discarded.
Additionally, the way a #1 or #2 bottle is decorated can determine its recycling fate. If the bottle has a resin color that is not desirable by companies who purchased recycled resin (ex. black), the bottle will not get recycled. If there is a soft-touch overspray or metallic stamping on the plastic, it could contaminate the production of the recycled resin and will get discarded.
Additionally, closures like pumps, airless containers, and caps are not recyclable because of their plastic type or they contain multiple types of plastic. If the closure is still attached to the bottle or tube, the whole thing will be discarded. It's important to always remove the lid.
If the packaging is not washed out or becomes contaminated by other products in your recycling bin, the likelihood of recycling diminishes.
Pouches, bags, and other items made from plastic films are not recyclable, which is why we chose not to use them.