Conservation Corner - April 09

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Promoting Energy Awareness, Conservation and Sustainability

By The Staff

Plastic Recycling 101

What Plastics can be recycled?

In Cedar Key plastics (1-7) can be recycled. They do not have to be separated by number or separated from glass, paper or metal recyclables when they are placed in the recycling trailer. The numeric codes 1-7 are generally found on the bottom of the containers and surrounded by the recycling triangle of arrows. If your eyes have trouble finding these numbers, it is generally safe to assume it is recyclable in Cedar Key if is a rigid plastic.

Plastics should be rinsed of gross residue. Lids should be removed, but can be recycled with the containers.

What happens to collected plastics when they leave Cedar Key in the trailer?

First, the plastics are sorted by their polymer type (1 – 7) at the Levy County recycling center. Then they are squeezed into gigantic blocks in preparation for bulk purchase by reprocessors who make them into other useful products, usually completely different from their original product.

The most often recycled plastic is HDPE, High Density Polyethylene, (#2) which is used for milk, juice, water, laundry detergent and shampoo bottles, as well as trash and retail bags. These bottles and bags are “downloaded” into plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, truck cargo liners, trash receptacles, carpeting and other durable plastic products.

Although plastic polymers require greater processing and therefore greater energy to recycle when compared to materials like glass and metals, the sheer volume of plastics used in packaging consumer products dictates that they be recycled rather than dumped in landfills. In addition, plastic is almost always a product of petroleum, a non-renewable resource, making it important not only to recycle but also reduce use.

Plastic Recycling and Source Reduction Facts:

• Plastic bottles take 700 years before they begin to decompose in a landfill

• In 2006, Americans drank about 167 bottles of water each but only recycled an average of 23%, that left 38 billion water bottles in landfills

• It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture a year’s supply of bottled water, enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars

• Although plastics recovered through recycling are made into secondary products, none of these secondary products are currently recyclable.

• Source reduction of plastics to reduce the use of virgin materials includes using refillable containers, buying in bulk, buying products that don’t use much packaging and buying products in recyclable and recycled packaging

Sources: www.wikipedia.org, www.earth911.com, www.ecologycenter.org, www.livescience.com