Saturday, June 16, 2012

Plastic never goes away

Recycling is good, but some materials are best avoided in the first place, especially plastic. As Beth Terry says in her book, 'Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too',
The only plastic that actually gets recycled is that which of Recycling plastics reclaimers are willing to buy. Recycling is a business, and if there is no market for a material, it will end up in the landfill or incinerator. ...Another reason is the cost of processing. While it’s possible to incorporate recycled PET back into new bottles, cleaning the material to the standards necessary for food contact is much more resource intensive and expensive than simply using virgin resin, so much of it gets downcycled into secondary products like carpet or polar fleece. And the way recycling centers combine mixed plastics into bales impacts the quality of the material available for sale.
We'd be kidding ourselves if we imagined that by recycling most of our household waste, we're doing our bit for the environment. We are doing a bit, but is it enough? Being aware of the amount of packaging that we accept with our shopping is one way that we can start to cut down on plastics, which may be recycled (some of them, anyway), but will still end up in landfill or even the sea eventually because they take many years to break down, however many times they're recycled.

Take plastic milk containers. Many people buy milk from the supermarket or local store in plastic containers. They're convenient and cheap, though milk producers will say that the milk they contain isn't expensive enough (and they'd be right). But what happens to the containers? Only 35% of them are recycled, and those that are consume a lot of energy. This could be avoided if more people used the doorstep delivery service for milk in glass bottles, which are returned for re-use or recycling.

More and more people are using "bags for life" at the supermarket, but most of them are made from plastic, even if it is a stronger version. What about the quality hessian bags we sell here in Elmsett, promoting our community woodland? Too many people are still buying bottled water, when what comes out of the tap is just as good and a lot cheaper. If you need water on the go, re-use a plastic bottle or buy a metal one from any good camping store. There are so many ways that we can avoid plastic - it isn't that difficult.

Does any of this matter? It does if you genuinely care about the environment, the world our children will inherit, and the health of our seas and the creatures that live in them. Try to avoid plastic, and if you can't, dispose of it responsibly.

Click here to learn more about the global plastic catastrophe.


Margaret Nelson said...

More on plastic in the sea: Click here to read about the PhD student planning to map extent of plastic garbage patch in the ocean .

sabkon wells said...

hi.thanks for shedding light on such critical matters. it was really inspiring. will be looking up for more updates on the post.

Recycling Plastic Containers