The history of plastics

Though the plastic toy you buy for your child from the store, or the plastic bottle you buy from the supermarket might appear brand new, plastic actually has origins extremely far in the past – back to prehistoric times.

The resources we use to make them, such as oil, gas and coal – also known as fossil fuels – were formed hundreds of millions of years ago from prehistoric plants and animals.

These resources are finite because they will run out eventually and will take millions more years to form again, therefore we call them 'non-renewable' resources.

For this reason, plastic itself can be seen as an extremely valuable resource. The resources it needs to be produced have taken millions of years to develop and now that they've been used we can't get them back.

That's why it's important to reuse or recycle any plastic goods that you already do have and to reduce obtaining any more unnecessary plastic items.

Since plastic's origins date so far back in time, it's no wonder plastic takes a long time to break down. No-one's quite sure yet just how long, but it's at least a number of decades depending on the item and quite possibly a lot more.

Remember, the best way to reduce waste associated with plastic is to find ways to reuse it. If you can't, you can always donate the item, gift it or sell it online – it's bound to come in handy for someone else. 

For anything you must get rid of, make sure it's recycled. Check what can be accepted in your kerbside collection. Usually common items such as shampoo bottles, plastic food containers and drink bottles are good to go, while cling wrap, plastic bags and plastic toys cannot be. That's why it's important to use reusable shopping bags and reusable sandwich wrap instead!

Depending on your area, there might be e-waste collections for items like computers and televisions periodically, otherwise you will need to take them to a designated recycling centre.

Remember: Never put your plastic items in the recycling bin tied up in bags or bundles!These will not be accepted as the bags can cause damage to machinery and hinder the sorting process.