Fighting for Trash Free Seas®

Ending the flow of trash at the source

Plastics Facts

What Plastics Are Made Of And How They Do (And Don’t) Go Away

hundreds of plastic bottles
© Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Plastics can be categorized by their material source (i.e., what they’re made of) and their end-of-life properties (i.e., how they do or do not degrade in the environment). To date, the vast majority of plastics are made of fossil fuels and do not biodegrade – meaning they persist in the environment indefinitely. All inappropriately discarded plastics – regardless of material source or end-oflife properties – pose risk of injury or entanglement to freshwater and ocean wildlife. Read our fact sheet defining plastics and defining key terms and figures. 

Plastics Recycling

recycling bin filled with plastic bottles and bags
© pepe ceron-balsas/Unsplash

The renowned “chasing arrows” recycling symbol represents, ideally, a closed-loop or circular economy for materials. For plastics, this means that plastic materials and products are collected, processed, and manufactured into new products again and again. This reduces waste, pollution, and the need for new/virgin plastics, 99% of which are derived from fossil fuels. Read our fact sheet defining what is and what is not plastics recycling.

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