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Can you Burn Plastic? Reasons, Alternatives, & FAQ

Wood Burning on Fire Pit

Plastic is everywhere around us, from plastic bottles to straws and plastic bags. While there are a lot of recycling centers where you can dispose of plastic safely, many look for easier ways to dispose of plastic, including burning it.

To answer the question, can you burn plastic? The simple answer is yes. However, just because you can burn plastic doesn’t mean you should.

Burning plastic is unsafe for several reasons, which we’ll discuss throughout the article. Keep reading to learn why this disposal method is not good and how you can safely dispose of your plastic waste.

divider 1 What Is Plastic?

Plastic represents a range of semi-synthetic or synthetic materials which contain polymers as their main ingredients. The plasticity of these materials allows us to turn them into various usable products with different shapes.

Materials made of plastic are durable and they take a lot of time to decompose, while some plastic items can’t decompose. Because of that, plastic represents a threat to our environment, and plastic waste is quickly causing pollution.

That’s one of the main factors why you should look for ways to safely dispose of plastic instead of throwing it in nature or burning it.

Image By: Hans, Pixabay

Is Burning Plastic a Good Idea?

Burning plastic is a bad idea—for your health and the environment.

While many believe they’re getting rid of plastic when they burn it, that’s not the case. Burnt plastic simply turns into greenhouse gasses which affect our planet and lead to climate change.

Also, burning plastic can lead to several health issues, especially if you’re breathing in the smoke.

During burning, plastic releases multiple toxic fumes, including:
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)
  • Polycyclic organic matter (POMs)
  • Dioxin
  • Benzopyrene
  • Polyaromatic hydrocarbons

Most of these chemicals are extremely toxic and can lead to various diseases, including cancer.

There’s also a possibility that not all of the plastic will burn out, which means you’ll still leave some of it on the ground or end up in rivers or ponds. If that happens, animals nearby could eat the plastic, resulting in illness or death.

What Happens When You Burn Plastic?

Burning plastic is a nasty job; the area would fill with stinky smoke, and the health risks can be hazardous. Luckily, many states in the US prohibit burning plastic by law, which lowers the impact of burnt plastic on the environment.

If you think burning plastic is not such a bad idea, here’s a list of things that happen when you burn plastic:
  • Plastic remains in our atmosphere and just turns into toxic fumes instead of its solid form
  • The smoke from burning plastic can lead to several health issues
  • The gasses also lead to climate change and global warming
  • The air quality was reduced significantly
  • When burning plastic, it will turn to goo which will remain on the ground and release toxic materials inside
  • Burning plastic bottles brings a risk of exploding, which can cause open wounds and burn marks
assorted plastic bottle
Image By: Piqsels

Why Is Burning Plastic Unsafe?

As you can see, there’s nothing good about burning plastic. In fact, this disposal method represents a threat to you, your community, and the whole planet.

Even factories that promote burning plastic as an advanced recycling method contribute to pollution by burning plastic waste. Not to mention burning plastic typically takes a lot of time, which can be expensive and exhausting.

divider 1

Safe Disposal of Plastic

Instead of burning plastic, you should educate yourself about the safe disposal of plastic and learn how to change your habits towards this material. Most issues with plastic come from people not knowing how to dispose of plastic properly, so they adhere to irresponsible behavior and improper disposal.

Before we go on about the safe disposal of plastic, you should know that you can contribute to less plastic waste by changing small habits in your life.

Here are some of the things you can do:
  • Wash a plastic product after usage
  • Crush the plastic container or bottle
  • Store plastic separately from other waste
  • Recycle or reuse plastic items

One of the best ways to promote effective plastic disposal is to divide your trash into separate elements, like paper, plastic, tin, etc. Also, whenever you have a chance, try to avoid plastic packaging and choose more eco-friendly options.

recycling plastic bottles
Image By: Hans, Pixabay

How Do You Know Which Plastics Are Recyclable?

Not everything made from plastic will be recyclable, so you need to know which plastic items you can and can’t recycle. Otherwise, the employees at the recycling center might throw the plastic away if it’s not recyclable.

Plastic Items You Can Recycle Plastic Not To Recycle
Plastic bottles (from juice, water, etc.) Plastic bags
Plastic tubs and containers with caps Plastic wrap
Microwave food trays Containers with plastic and mixed materials
Plastic food jars Plastic toys
Plastic jugs Plastic straws, bottle caps, etc.

When unsure if something plastic is recyclable or not, the best way to know if something is to reach out to the local recycling company. Most companies also provide such information on their websites, while some also put detailed instructions on the recycling bins.

Recycling Plastic

You can safely dispose of plastic by recycling, but before you start, you need to know how recycling plastic works. When you have a plastic container you want to recycle, throwing it into the garbage can is not enough.

First, you must wash the plastic container until there are no liquids or foods inside. If you dispose of plastic that’s not clean, you’re jeopardizing the whole plastic batch, and the recycling center might need to send it to a landfill.

Also, remember to check for a crush to conserve sign on the label when dealing with plastic cans and bottles. If you notice this not, crush the can/bottle before throwing it into the recycling bin.

Image By: Shirley810, Pixabay

What Can I Do To Prevent the Creation of Plastic Waste?

While many people think they can’t impact the amount of plastic waste on our planet, there are many things we can do to lower plastic waste in our environment.

Here’s a list of simple tips and tricks which will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste you leave behind:
  • Use glass bottles instead of plastic bottles
  • Reuse old plastic bottles instead of buying new ones
  • Use reusable straws instead of plastic straws
  • Avoid using plastic utensils
  • Instead of using plastic bags, use either paper or cloth bags
  • Use reusable plastic cups or glass cups instead of regular plastic cups

Remember that even baby steps will have a good impact on our environment, especially if they’re long-term.

divider 1 Final Thoughts

Burning plastic is extremely unsafe, and you should avoid this plastic disposal method whatsoever. Instead, try to recycle whenever possible and look for ways to minimize your daily plastic usage. That way, your plastic disposal will be ecologically friendly, and it will help the planet instead of causing more pollution.

See also: Can You Microwave Water Bottles? (Microwave Safety Tips)

Featured Image Credit: Tom Swinnen, Pexels


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