When you yourself have heard about the Plastic Continent — the floating island of plastic twice how big Texas in the Pacific Ocean — then you know the way crucial it is to recycle plastic. Right now, only 5% of plastics worldwide are recycled. Some of this is ignorance: most of the world still simply doesn’t understand the danger plastics pose to our environment and our food chain.
But plastics themselves are complicated. Even if you want to recycle your plastics, and even in the event that you dutifully separate plastics from the rest of your household waste and put it out on the curb in its blue or green recycle bin, your plastics might still end up in the Plastic Continent. Why is this?
Different Types of Plastic
Look at the underneath side of a plastic bottle or plastic container. Inside the familiar reduce, reuse, recycle triangle (“chasing arrows”) logo is a number between one and seven. This number indicates what kind of plastic that container is made of. Some plastics are simple to recycle, but other plastics are much harder to recycle. As a result, most municipal recycling facilities only recycle the easiest plastics: plastics 1 and 2. What happens to plastics 3 through 7? At some recycling facilities, these are gathered until they’ve enough to send to a larger recycling facility that does recycle these types of plastics. But at other recycling facilities, the same thing happens to plastics 3 through 7 as what would have happened at your house if you did not have that handy recycling bin: it goes to the landfill, or the Pacific’s Plastic Continent.
Plastics no. 1 and #2
Plastic no. 1 is polyethelyne terephthalate (PET). This is the most commonly used plastic, and it’s the easiest to recycle. Your plastic soda bottle, salad dressing bottle, and cooking oil bottle are likely all made from PET. Significantly more than 2. 3 billion pounds of PET are recycled annually.
Plastic #2 is high density polyethelene (HDPE). Most milk jugs, detergent bottles, and many food containers are made from HDPE. Unfortunately, some plastics marked with a #2, such as yogurt cups, are not actually recyclable. It is because other chemicals have been included with the plastic in order to mold it into the desired shape. These additives make recycling some of these #2 items ostensibly impossible.
Plastics #1 and #2 make up 96% of all of the plastic bottles produced in the United States. None the less, 80% of plastic bottles still wind up in a landfill, despite the fact that 80% of Americans gain access to a method for recycling these bottles.
Plastic #3 through #7
The rest of the plastics make-up pretty much everything that’s not a plastic bottle. Just think of all the plastics in your home — your toothbrush, cling wrap, plastic bowls, plastic cups, drinking straws, last night’s leftovers, that almost-impossible-to-open package your new iPhone came in, your computer, your DVD cases… plastic is everywhere.
These plastics can all be categorized whilst the plastics #3 through number 7. non-e of them are specially easy to recycle, so although your recycling guy will require it from your curb, that does not necessarily mean it will become tomorrow’s soda bottle. However , by researching recycling facilities in your town, you can find places to recycle these less common plastics.
The Bottom Line When it Comes to Plastic Recycling
Plastic is much harder to recycle than other materials. Because it breaks down throughout the recycling process, it can only be recycled so often times — this is why many recyclers prefer so-called “virgin plastics”, or plastics that haven’t been recycled before because they make a much better product. That means that even although you do the best you can to recycle all your plastics, a number of them might still end up in the dump.