If you've ever looked at the bottom of a delivery bottle or cup, you've probably seen this symbol. Seeing this, many people think that they should throw the items they have in the recycling bin. However, many of these plastics cannot be recycled in most processing centers. In fact, only 9% of the 360 million tons of plastic produced annually is recycled. So why is recycled plastic so cheap? What do these codes mean? Our recycling problem has many layers, starting with construction. About 18% of plastic is made from thermosetting polymers. These plastics are made permanent by curing, a process that hardens the material by continuously linking its molecular chains. What makes thermosets so useful is that they retain shape and integrity under extreme conditions, meaning they cannot be broken down and remade by most recycling plants. Fortunately, most plastics are thermoplastic and can be melted and reshaped. But this category includes a variety of materials with unique chemical compositions, weights and properties, and different recycling methods. Therefore, most recycling centers only accept a portion of these definitions. This brings us to the next problem: ambiguous coding systems. This code was developed and launched by the plastics industry in 1988 to help consumers and facilities manage waste. Each number represents a plastic composition, called resin. Some resins are recyclable at most centers, while others are not. However, in this system, all numbers are surrounded by a universally recognized recycling symbol, so consumers are misled into thinking that many non-recyclable plastics have opportunities to be reused. Just because a recycled technical resin ends up in the trash doesn't mean it's going to keep going. Plastics contain various types of resins, mixed with dyes and additives, have additives and labels that are difficult to remove, all of which lead to plastic being thrown into incinerators or landfills. Simply put, many companies do not design their packaging with recycling in mind. Even in its pure form, it can only be melted down and remade a few times because the polymer degrades with each use. If all these problems make you think that plastic is impossible, you are not the first person. This fact has been known to the plastics industry since the 1970s. The industry poured millions of dollars into advertising despite doubting that recycling could be economically viable. In the United States, the plastics industry has quietly lobbied state governments, so many states have passed laws requiring plastics to carry plastic labels. As a result, the burden of "solving" the growing plastic waste problem has shifted from industry to consumers. Nowadays, the situation is getting worse. Due to the rising costs of proper waste disposal, and fewer buyers of used recyclables worldwide, many cities have been forced to ban recycling programs altogether. side. So how do we fix the ever-increasing plastic waste system? What is clear is that plastic consumption should be reduced. More than a quarter of our plastic waste comes from packaging. Many manufacturers have taken the right steps by eliminating unnecessary plastic films and replacing plastic buckets and cartons with items that are more easily recycled or composted. For plastic waste, one solution is to advocate for a circular economy for plastic. This means reducing the production of new plastic, eliminating single-use plastic, and ensuring that the remaining plastic can still be recycled through recycling. This system relies on policies that regulate plastics from the start of production, ensuring that all plastics produced are free of contaminants that compromise their ability to be recycled. At the same time, many experts believe that the current adhesive coding system should be scrapped and replaced with clear and simple labels for both recyclable and non-recyclable items. This will help consumers to organize their waste, but more importantly, it will allow them to make decisions when buying, ultimately forcing manufacturers to prepare when can be recycled.