The immense uptake in the use of plastics began after World War II when people began to realize the convenience of single-use items. No need to return empty bottles to the store, or to worry about washing a reusing a cup – just toss it and get a new one next time!

Additionally, companies were able to manufacture products at a lower cost, making them more accessible to the general public. Despite some serious missteps which have put consumers at risk by exposing them to dangerous chemicals, the amount of plastic still being used today is mind-blowing.

So what’s the problem with plastic?

Did you know that only 1/5th (20%) of plastics make it to a recycling facility? And of that 20%, much of the material touted as “recyclable” cannot be properly handled and broken down due to manufacturing processes which layer various materials together?

Take flexible packaging, for example. Everywhere you look, you see claims like “100% recyclable materials” on pouches, and while this isn’t a flat-out lie, it also isn’t particularly straightforward – yes, the materials that make up the package are each individually recyclable. However, once they are processed and layered together they are nearly impossible to separate in the way that is required for them to actually be recycled. So what happens? They end up in the landfill.

Take a look at this short video from National Geographic’s series “Planet or Plastic?” to see how these plastics are harming our environment.