Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles -- it's easy to amass plastic in today's world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)
Why Recycle Plastic? When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:
-- It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car -- up to five times more -- due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.
-- Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
-- The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.
-- More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.
-- Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware.
How to Recycle Plastic Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community's curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what's what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).
When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren't going to take the time to take off billions of lids -- and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.
The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic There are ways to make good use of plastic once you're done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they're functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.
For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it's environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman's creations here.