Recycling plastic is a key part of being a good steward of the environment, but many people know little about the benefits of recycling — or the harms of failing to recycle. Here are three fast facts about plastic recycling that you can carry with you to help you be mindful of the positive effects recycling can have on your community and the world as a whole:
Plastic recycling is available to 87% of Americans.
Nearly nine in ten Americans live in a municipality where their recycling will be collected, according to a report from Greenpeace. In these areas, type one and type two plastics can be recycled.
Type one plastics, also known as PET plastics, are highly recyclable and include items such as water bottles, peanut butter jars, and soda bottles (PET plastics have a number “1” label). Type “2” plastics, also known as HDPE plastics, are also great for recycling and include items such as milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and laundry detergent containers. All these plastics can be identified by the triangle of arrows on the packaging.
Americans recycle plastics at different rates.
Americans use plastic everyday. But not all plastics are recycled at the same rate. On each recyclable item is a triangle with a number inside. The number represents the kind of plastic the item is made from. The most common plastics, or #1 (PET or PETE) and #2 (HDPE), are recycled the most, but there is still room for improvement. #1 plastics are recycled at a rate of 29% while 31% of #2 plastics are recycled. Other plastics are recycled at a lower rate. For example, only 17% of #5 (PP) plastics are recycled. Increasing the rate at which we recycle all plastics will benefit the environment and allow for plastic materials to be used to create new products.
The possibilities for recycled plastics are endless.
Recycled plastics can be reformed into the same product. Many water bottles are entirely made from other recycled water bottles. Other environmentally conscious businesses have been uncovering even more innovative uses for recycled plastics that could not be imagined a generation ago.
Ikea can design an entire kitchen cabinet set made from recycled water bottles. Patagonia was the first company to take recycled soda bottles and turn them into clothing materials, such as fleece. Now, many clothing companies are jumping onto the trend of using recycled plastic in their designs. Rothys has designed shoes and purses that are made entirely of plastic that has been pulled from our oceans.