Recycling Plastics   (bio lab 354)

The use of plastics has become very common in our daily lives. Grocery sacks are now made of plastic to conserve trees, many types of "cans" are made of plastic to conserve metal, and many types of "bottles" are made of plastic instead of glass. But plastic is made from petroleum, which is a natural resource we need to conserve too. For the use of plastic to be as "environmentally friendly" as it should be, we need to do a better job of recycling plastics.

Different types of resins are used to make different types of plastics and this causes a problem for recyclers. Each type of plastic must be recycled separately. Today, most recyclers do not accept all types of plastics and they require the consumer to separate those that they do recycle before they will take them. This is because they do not have machines to do the separating. Although those machines are being developed, it will be years before their wide-spread use. Many consumers do not want to take the trouble to separate types of plastics so the containers go into the trash. Each year, Americans dispose of an estimated 29 billion pounds of plastics which consume up to 20% of our nation's annual landfill capacity. Plastics are not biodegradable so the large amounts of plastics going into our landfills is becoming a problem. Consumers must become better informed so that more plastics will be recycled.

Major Plastic Resins and Their Uses
Name and Code Uses Recycled Products
Polyethylene Terephthalate
Soft drink and mouthwash bottles soft drink and soap bottles, paint brushes, tennis balls, carpets, egg cartons, and boats
High Density Polyethylene
Milk, water, and juice jugs; grocery bags; liquid detergent bottles; and toys Soft drink bottle base cups, stadium seats, trash cans, traffic cones, detergent bottles, and toys
Polyvinyl Chloride
or Vinyl
Clear food packaging and shampoo bottles Floor mats, pipes, and hose
Low Density Polyethylene
Bread bags, grocery bags, and frozen food bags Trash can liners and grocery bags
Ketchup bottles, yogurt containers, margarine tubs, and medicine bottles Paint buckets, video cassette storage cases, ice scrapers, lawn mower wheels, and automobile battery parts
Video cassette cases, CD jackets, coffee cups, knives, forks, spoons, food service trays, fast food sandwich containers Desk top accessories, hanging file holders, food service trays, flower pots, trash cans, and video cassette holders.

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