Life cycle

The life cycle when referring to a plastic product refers to all the stages of the products life, from its raw material extraction through to its disposal or recycling. The current approach to the plastics life cycle is linear: the product is produced, consumed and discarded. This is highly problematic, as with this model we assume that there are infinite resources for production, and an infinite capacity for waste absorption. In response to growing plastic pollution issues worldwide, there has been growing attention within industry and governments to move from a linear to a circular economy. Within an ideal circular economy, the life cycle of products is circular: products will be produced, consumed and recycled, so the cycle will be repeated as many times as possible. This approach will help to reduce demand for raw materials, but it also falsely heralds recycling as the solution to plastic pollution. Recycling is a highly complex and energy intensive process (see definition for recycling), thus it is important to prioritize reducing the consumption of plastic and reusing the products already produced.