According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 13 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were disposed of in 2009. Only 7 percent of this waste was recycled. The increasing demand for plastics necessitates proper end-of-life practices, including recycling. Recycled plastics are made into many everyday products, including carpet, garden products, lawn chairs, shipping containers and even clothing. ...
In 2009, Americans generated 30 million tons of plastic waste -- over 12 percent of their total garbage (see References 1, page 6). A mere 7 percent of U.S. plastic waste was recycled (see References 1, page 7). Numbers like these emphasize the importance of using less plastic -- and recycling more of the plastic that consumers use, as well. Recycling plastic cuts down on the amount of waste Americans produce and ...
As you dispose of the container from your frozen dinner, you notice a number on the bottom of the package. The number, juxtaposed next to the recycle symbol, gives you pause. You wonder whether your community's waste-disposal company will recycle the package. If it does not, you might be inclined to research other recycling options. The numbers on plastic containers have specific meanings. Learning how to properly ...
Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE, is number 4-coded plastic, commonly used to manufacture shopping bags, dry cleaning bags and flexible bottles and lids (see References 3). Although not as commonly recycled as number 1 polyethylene terephthalate or number 2 high-density polyethylene, LDPE recycling is gaining traction as its post-consumer uses increase. One use is combining recycled LDPE with wood to create ...
More Articles on Recycle Plastic
Most plastic containers have a resin code, which is a number surrounded by three arrows that form a triangle, identifying the type of plastic used in their composition. Plastic coded with a 5, polypropylene, presents some logistical headaches for eco-conscious consumers. Although it can be recycled into things such as garden rakes, car parts, storage bins and shipping pallets, its second-life use is limited. Because few manufacturers have the facilities to recycle PP, many communities don't accept it in their recycling programs. (See References 1)
Plastic identification codes, also known as resin codes, help you figure out which bottles to toss into recycling collection bins. The numbered codes correspond to the types of plastic and are stamped on plastic products inside a triangular symbol that looks similar to a recycling logo. Different recycling programs accept different kinds of plastic, so seeing a code on a bottle does not necessarily mean that your local recycling programs accept that bottle. (See References 1.)
Consumer plastics commonly bear a triangle with a number inside, called a resin identification code --- or more simply, a resin code. These codes indicate the types of plastics used in the products. Because not all plastics are commonly accepted by recycling programs, understanding resin codes can help you determine which consumer plastics you can place in your recycling bin.
Plastic bottles bear codes developed in 1988 by the Society of the Plastic Industry to help you separate plastic bottles for ease of recycling (see References 2). While it would be ideal if different types of plastics could be mixed together for recycling, "they often don't because melt temperatures and even material compatibilities vary so much," writes Russel Gehrke, an engineer and inventor, in "Recycling Projects for the Evil Genius." (See References 1, p. 42) Your knowledge of what exactly to do with that empty bottled drink can help boost rates of plastic bottle recycling, hovering at around 28 percent in 2009 (see References 2).
The average American created about 4.3 pounds of waste each day in 2009, of which 1.46 pounds were recycled (see References 1, page 1). Many types of glass and plastic containers are recyclable into new products. Glass bottles, for example, are endlessly recyclable without loss in quality or production of waste products, according to the Glass Packaging Institute (see References 2). Plastic bottles reappear as non-food bottles, other plastic containers, garden items, piping and plastic lumber (see References 5, page 10).
Recycling plastic keeps it out of the landfill and conserves natural resources, including petroleum (see References 1). The Society of the Plastics Industry developed plastic resin identification codes in 1988 to help consumers and manufacturers efficiently sort plastics for recycling. However, the presence of the code -- a three-sided "chasing arrow" triangle with a number inside -- tells only what material it's made from and doesn't mean a plastic container can be routinely recycled. (See References 2) Earth 911.com has a national directory, searchable by zip code, to find plastics recycling in your area by the numbers.
Almost 30 million tons of plastic went into the U.S. municipal waste stream in 2009 according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Individuals and businesses only recovered 7 percent of this plastic trash for recycling. (See References 3, page 54) Although many localities recycle mixed plastics, recycling operations are more likely to recycle some types of plastics than others.
In the recently emerging field of green chemistry, researchers try to find more environmentally friendly chemicals and processes for industrial use (see References 1). One product of interest is biodegradable plastic, which is designed to break down in the environment (see References 2). Biodegradable plastics could help deal with the problems posed by plastic waste, as many types can be added to compost heaps, keeping them out of landfills completely.
Together, paper and plastic make up 40 percent of the garbage discarded by the average American (see References 1). Thankfully, both paper and plastic are easily recycled; both materials can be made into new products instead of sitting in a landfill. Many cities and towns in the U.S. practice curbside recycling, in which you sort your recyclables into a separate bin and they're picked up along with your garbage. Even if you do not live in an area that offers this service, you can participate by transporting your recyclables to the nearest central recycling facility.
Plastic usage has grown tremendously in the last 50 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates production increased from 390,000 tons in 1960 to more than 30 million tons in 2007. However, unlike paper and yard trimmings, plastics have a relatively low rate of recovery -- less than 7 percent. Of the types of plastic available, those rated with the resin codes 1-PET and 2-HDPE have the best recovery rate: 36.6 and 28.0 percent, respectively. (See Reference 1, pages 7, 35 and 51.)
Within many communities, increased curbside service has simplified the process of properly recycling number two plastics — products imprinted with a triangle that has a "2" in its center and the code "HDPE" under it. Even if you aren't able to simply toss these plastics into a recycling bin with water bottles, you should be able to find a nearby facility that accepts high-density polyethylene plastics. (See References 1 and 2.)
When it comes to installing a backyard playground, you have several choices of materials and products. Fortunately, these include eco-friendly choices such as swings made of recycled plastics, which reduce your carbon footprint and aid your efforts to live a green lifestyle. Recycled plastic products offer other advantages. They are generally affordable and provide a good return on your investment in terms of longevity and durability. Their advantages also extend to their usability and safety.
Research conducted for the Tampon Safety and Research Act of 1997 shows that a woman can use up to 11,400 tampons in her lifetime (see References 3). Because tampon use generates waste that ends up in landfills -- and sometimes in waterways -- and because these products make such close contact with sensitive areas, it makes sense to look for alternatives that are gentler on both the body and the environment. The best eco-friendly tampons are free of synthetics and irritants as well as excessive packaging.
In 2010, more than 12 percent of the waste generated in the United States was from plastics. Of the 31 million tons generated, only 8 percent was recycled, leaving more than 27 tons of plastic in landfills (See Reference 4). Plastic waste can be reduced by recycling more, purchasing fewer plastic items and using renewable plastics. Renewable plastics are made from plant sources, rather than petroleum products. The use of renewable plastics is increasing, but debate remains regarding the benefits of this type of plastic.
Plastic — ubiquitous in food preservation, beverage containers and consumer product packaging — is one of the most commonly recycled items in the United States. And yet, of the roughly 1 million tons of plastic beverage bottles produced annually, only 23.5 percent are recycled; the remaining 76.5 percent end up in municipal landfills or as litter. (See Reference 1) New York State has aggressive plastics recycling programs to combat the tons of waste produced by the most populous metro area in the country. In Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the two jurisdictions that comprise Long Island, local recycling is managed by individual town departments of sanitation, environmental protection, or public works; most towns have programs for recycling different types of plastic.
People concerned about bisphenol A, a chemical used to make certain plastics, want alternatives to plastics for storing food. BPA can leech into foods. U.S. Food and Drug Administration studies suggest it may affect brain and gland function in children and babies. Certain plastics like vinyl contain phthalates that can also disturb glands. In addition, a 2010 study published in "Environmental Health Perspectives" found most plastics release a chemical that mimics estrogen. (See References 1 to 3.)
Polyvinyl chloride is a commonly used but seldom recycled plastic (see Reference 1, page 2). Most household and infrastructural pipes are made from a PVC known for its rigidity, longevity and water tightness. These qualities contribute to the material's upcycling and reuse potentials, especially as indoor planters. Repurposing PVC pipes extends their life and reduces the amount of plastic in the waste stream; growing food reduces manufacturing- and transport-related environmental demands.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that used textiles account for approximately 5 percent of municipal waste in the U.S., and of that total, only 15 percent was recycled in 2010. (See Reference 1) In many municipalities, it's possible to drop clean fabrics or used clothing at a recycling facility; nonprofit organizations also accept clean fabric for resale, and pass along unusable garments for recycling where possible. (See Reference 2) Cotton can also be added to your compost pile, where it decomposes just like other plant fibers. (See Reference 3)
The microwave oven has become an indispensable appliance in today's kitchen. Because a poorly designed model might prove risky, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates microwave manufacturing with safety standards for reducing human exposure to radiation. As long as a microwave is undamaged, it is safe to use; your greatest risk from using one is contact with hot beverages or foods. However, you should also take care with the containers you use inside your microwave. While they may be convenient to use, some plastic products can pose health risks if used improperly (See References 1).