Plastic Recycling 101

September 21, 2009 / No Comments

Imagine if all the world’s rivers and lakes were no longer filled with marine life but with plastic bottles, containers and packaging instead.

Recycling plastic Plastic Recycling 101

Plastic recycling

The damaging effect to wildlife and marine eco- systems throughout the world would be catastrophic, resulting in less and less plant life being able to grow, CO2 emissions rising and our planet would literally be chocking on its own plastic waste.

Yet this isn’t something that is a million years from now, our Earth’s demise is happening now with over 150 billion tonnes of plastic being dumped into the ocean by the worldwide fishing industry alone. But it is also something that we can combat now, quite easily, simply by recycling.

Why recycle plastic?

Plastic bags are made of polyethylene – more commonly known as polythene – they are hazardous to manufacture and are said to take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

The energy needed to manufacture and transport plastic bags eats up more resources and creates more global warming emissions.

The production of plastic also involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals, which are added as stabilisers or colorants. As a number of these have not undergone environmental risk assessments, their impact on human health and the environment is currently a cause for concern. One example of this is phthalates, which are used to create PVC. PVC has in the past been used in toys for young children and there has been concern that phthalates may be released when these toys come into contact with saliva when they are sucked by babies. Risk assessments of the effects of phthalates on the human body and the environment are currently being carried out.

In 2006, Americans drank approximately 167 bottles of water each, but only recycled an average of 38 bottles per person, which equals about 50 billion plastic bottles consumed, with only 23% being recycled. That leaves 38 billion water bottles in landfills, each year.

These plastic bottles dumped in landfills take 700 years before they start to decompose.

What can you do?

Did you know that by making even the smallest of changes just one person can make a huge difference? By taking your own reusable bags to the supermarket you are cutting down the use for plastic bags. Use bags made out of natural fibres such as organic cotton which can be used again and again without harming our planet.

Instead of drinking beverages packaged with plastic, opt for drinks which are packaged from other renewable materials such as glass or paper.

Small changes can make a vast impact on the environment, especially since one recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for three hours.

By recycling your plastic, this material can go on and be used to create a number of other products including, PVC sewer pipes, flooring, window frames; building insulation boards; video and compact disc cassette cases; fencing and garden furniture; water butts, garden sheds and composters; seed trays; anoraks and fleeces; fibre filling for sleeping bags and duvets; and a variety of office accessories.

Remember, the planet is not a gift from your parents, but a loan from your children – recycle your plastic today for our children’s tomorrow.

Written in association with plastic recycling experts

Image courtesy of topsy