Currently only 10% of plastics are recycled worldwide. This is mostly limited to plastics known as PET, HDPE, and PP plastics. The other 90% of plastics, mostly single-use plastics, are known as low-value plastic waste (think plastic food wrap, chip bags, candy wrappers). Most of these types of plastics end up in landfills, where it can take hundreds of years for this type of plastic to decompose. Alternatively, they are burned, releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Often, these plastics are simply littered around the environment.
Plastic pollution creates harmful environments, particularly in informal settlements. People living next to dump sites are exposed to many health risks associated with piles of mixed waste.
Ideally, all plastics would be recycled. However, communities such as informal settlements tend to have little to no infrastructure able to handle the collection and recycling of plastics. The cost is prohibitive to sort and transport plastic waste to distant recycling centers. As a result, the majority of plastic waste which isn’t burned ends up littering these communities piled in empty lots or dumped in rivers.