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Recyclable Plastic

Recyclable Plastic: A sustainable, vital resource

This was written by Darren Bradley of People Water.

Plastic is one of the most widely and frequently used materials.  Certain plastics, such as PET plastic, are recyclable, which makes the path for plastic products very sustainable.

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The Environmental Protection Agency claims that two-thirds less energy is needed to manufacture products made out of recyclable plastic.  Though some consumers are skeptical at the prospect of “second-hand” material, studies have proved that consumers cannot tell the difference between products made from recycled material and products made from scratch.

A huge range of goods can be made from recycled plastic.  Blankets, belts, shoes, insulation and car parts can all be manufactured from recovered material, and the list doesn’t end here.

Though much confidence is placed in using glass material, plastic has many situational and complicated benefits that are frequently overlooked.

Firstly, glass is much heavier than plastic.  This makes transportation much more costly, burning more fuel than the transportation of plastic.  If the products are local, this isn’t a problem, but if they need to be shipped any significant distance, plastic takes about half the fuel as glass.

Also, new “green chemistry” has the capacity to break down the polymers of plastic and rebuild them, which makes the plastic almost infinitely useable.  Even after it’s no longer recyclable, plastic can be cleanly combusted in modern waste to energy facilities. Whereas glass is frequently ground up for pavement additive and landfill cover because it is so difficult to transport.

Compared to other products, recyclable plastic actually takes a very small toll on the environment.  In the process of recycling plastic, only a third of the sulphur dioxide and half of the nitrous oxide are reproduced.  Water usage is reduced by close to 90 percent, and the generation of carbon dioxide is reduced by two and a half times.

Plastic is one of the most useful and beneficial materials used in production, especially for the packaging of liquid and beverages.  As a consumer it is important to recognize the kind of plastic bottles and containers are made out of.  On every manufactured plastic product, a number displayed in the center of the recycling symbol indicated if the plastic is safe or not.  These numbers range from one to seven and each number has a different general meaning.

Plastic #1 is PET plastic.  It is usually clear, and packages most beverages.  PET plastic is both safe and recyclable.

Plastic #2 is HDPE, which means high density polyethylene.  This plastic is used for things like laundry detergent and toiletry bottles.  It is picked up by most recycling programs and is considered safe.

Plastic #3 is polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  Used for food wraps and cooking oils, this plastic is tough but not safe to have near food when cooking.  Most of the time, Plastic #3 is not accepted by recycling programs.

Plastic #4 represents LDPE plastic, or low density polyethylene.  This plastic makes products like grocery bags.  It is safe, but not usually recyclable.

Plastic #5 is polypropylene plastic, used for wide necked containers like yogurt cups and medicine bottles.  Recently, more and more recycling programs are accepting Plastic #5.  It is considered safe.

Plastic #6 is known as Styrofoam, or polystyrene.  Disposable containers, cups and plates are made from this.  Evidence suggests this plastic is toxic, and it is not accepted by recycling programs.

Finally, plastic #7 is essentially a mix of everything else, such as computer cases and baby bottles.  Because the content is unknown, using plastic #7 is risky.  Also, it is not accepted by curbside recycling programs.

The term “plastic” refers to a variety of material, so be smart when choosing.  Always make efforts to make choices that will benefit the environment and use recyclable plastic so we can sustain this vital resource

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