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Recycling Plastic in Today’s Environment

Recycling plastic is not only good for you and your pocketbook, it is also good for the planet and our future. Currently the U.S. is recycling approximately 30% of our plastic waste. If we could raise that figure to just 60%, we could save the equivalent of 315 million barrels of oil per year. These are huge numbers and worthy of our interest in getting started.
Confucius once said: “The journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step.” and so it is with recycling. If we all contribute a little, big things will happen.

There are several misconceptions about recycling plastic. Did you know that plastic will not break down in the landfill for hundreds of years. Most people think that the plastic that goes in a curbside bin gets recycled. This is not necessarily so.

Most plastic is dumped into landfills. Recycling plastic is tricky to do and although we could save money doing it, most communities are not set up to recycle with any level of efficiency. So into the landfill it goes.
Most people think the “chasing arrows symbol” means a container is recyclable. It turns out, the arrows are meaningless.

Every plastic container is marked with the chasing arrow symbol. The real information is the numbers and symbols around the arrows. This information identifies the resins used to manufacture the container. This system was introduced in 1988 as a way to help recyclers identify the seven basic types of plastics.

Most people think that plastics are made from refineries’ waste or oil. This is also not true. Most packing plastics are made from natural gas and other non-renewable natural resources.

A negative side effect of curb side pick up is that it legitimizes the efforts of recycling plastic and increases the waste factor or percentage of trash being collected.

Recent studies have shown that when a utility starts using curbside pick up, the amount of trash being thrown away increases by several percent.

Plastic bottle usage is at an all time high. Americans now use 25 million plastic beverage bottles every hour and 93% are thrown away. From my own observation, the water bottles are really thin now. The thickness of plastic water bottles has been reduced to 0.006”. Think of this as two sheets of copy paper.

I applaud the efforts of the industry to save material and money. Click here to check out the Plastic Packaging Recycling Codes and Typical Plastic Properties.

Also just for your FYI, Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year.

So, I will leave you with this fact. The U.S. is the No. 1 trash producing country in the world. We average 1,609 pounds of trash per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s population produces 40% of the worlds waste…
JUST A NOTE: When I was researching this article, I talked to my local “recycler” about what he does with the material he picks up. It turns out that papers, IF NOT WET, and clean plastic goes to a recycling company 30 miles away. He is not sure what happens to the material after that.

However, any aluminum is considered GOOD. He pulls out the aluminum cans and anything that looks like aluminum and puts it in a separate bin on his pickup truck and/or trailer to go to a different company.

He tests the material using a magnet to make sure it is not steel. Steel is truly trash.

He and his brother charge $14.00 a month or $140 a year if they are paid in advance to pick up your recycling. There are approximately 1000 customers in the area. They supply two plastic bins with their phone numbers on the side of the bins. They have no other advertising costs and it makes the users feel they are doing “something good for the environment.”

Dave Altman