By Larraine Roulston:
Have you ever wondered how plastic is recycled? The process involves different types of plastics melted and blended with new raw materials that create pellets or powder which are then used to create the same packaging or different products, such as decking or sturdy tote shopping bags. We all use everyday plastic items. Many foods and nearly all cosmetics are packaged in plastic; therefore, much of the plastic you see around your home or work place most likely is made from recycled content.
When blue box collection began in the mid-1980s, plastic was far more challenging to process than paper, glass and aluminum. For all the plastic packaging we have, almost each type is created using a different recipe. Packaging — whether designed to be either clear or colored, soft or stiff, lightweight or durable — all requires a variety of recipes in production. It doesn’t end there, as they have caps, spouts, tabs, tubes or sprayers frequently manufactured using different types of plastic.
The first plastics to be tackled were the clear beverage bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate, known as PET (#1) found inside the recycling logo, followed by high-density polyethylene HDPE jugs (# 2). Now most plastics bearing code numbers are collected. To my knowledge, the plastic pouch (#7) is not being recycled yet; however, many areas have markets for plastic film bags.
Over the past 30 years, we have become aware of the environmental benefits of recycling which include energy savings, decreased dependance on landfill, more economical packaging and job creation. For these reasons, it makes sense for the public to look for and comprehend the displayed code-numbered labels.
Your first step is to know what items your own municipality accepts in its recycling program. Not every area is able to find markets for all recycled packaging. Equally important is to empty and clean containers. It takes only seconds to rinse out a salad dressing bottle or to scrape out the last bit of peanut butter from a jar before tossing it into your blue box or recycling bag.
Periodically call your local recycling depot to inquire as to when they will offer special collection days for hard plastics such as broken toys and lawn chairs. Recycling technologies continue to advance, and your inquiry will let your municipality know that you are ready to participate. The Canadian Plastics Industry Association’s goal is “to ensure that recycling options are available to as many households as possible and to encourage growth in areas where it’s not yet universally available.”
Let Images for plastic recycling codes be your guide to help you recycle plastic.
Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series at www.castlecompost.com