There are lots of statistics out there about plastics—the number of tons of it generated in the United States each year (around 34.5 million in 2015), the percentage of municipal solid waste that is made up of it (approximately 13 percent), how much of it is actually recycled annually (less than 10 percent), etc. But the bottom line is, as consumers we use a lot of plastics yet there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.
For example, if you do recycle plastics, you probably check the bottoms of the containers to see the little numbers inside the Recycling symbol to see if it can be recycled or simply thrown out. You may also know that there are seven categories of plastics, with one being the most recyclable and seven being the least. However, did you know these numbers refer to how high a temperature each plastic was heated to? Did you also know there are different kinds of plastics including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE)?
For those of you who recycle plastics, did you also know that plastics should be rinsed before being thrown in the recycling bin? Plastics need to have a certainly cleanliness level before they can be processed. Some recycling facilities will wash them as part of the recycling effort, but others just throw out “dirty” plastics with the rest of the waste. In other words, even if you are recycling, your efforts might not be making an impact.
Lastly, unlike other recyclable materials, plastics degrade each time you recycle them. Plastics are made of polymers that shrink after each recycling effort, so most recyclable plastics can only go through the process two or three times before they are rendered useless.
The bottom line is, recycling plastics is great, and it’s a big part of what we at Bay Disposal & Recycling espouse, but it would be even better for the environment if we all do everything we can to reduce the use of them in the first place. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging, use reusable cloth grocery bags, replace store-bought bottled water with filtered water from the tap. As we always say, little things go a long way. Help us get there.
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This post first appeared on Recycling Responsibly: What Types Of Plastic Are Recyclable?, please read the originial post: here