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Plastic Recycling Facts
Why is Recycling Plastic Important?
Plastics are a versatile material that can be a valuable asset to our 21st century society. Because plastics are so versatile, they have become an iconic part of our daily lives. Can you imagine your life without plastics? What would your cell phone or your toothbrush or your clothing be made from if not polymers? What would your soft drinks or your snacks be in at the store? Can you name even one aspect of your daily life NOT affected by polymers or plastics?
Plastics are widely used, and, as such, they can pose a threat to our society in terms of their disposal. One of the problems of using plastics is that they do not readily decompose in land fills. However, this information can be moderated because businesses are able to greatly reduce destructive waste output and cut their overhead costs by using an active recycling program. Because plastic is a versatile recyclable, businesses can zero in on the benefits that result from the many markets that Complete Recycling is able to sell their materials to. They can also recycle scrap material that has not entered the public use arena right back into their processing stream. Plastics are often recycled to make items such as clothes, carpet, containers, bottles, plastic lumber, films, grocery bags, molding materials, and lawn and garden products, to name a few.
Plastic Waste by the Numbers
How much of our solid waste is plastic?
The Environmental Protection Agency reports plastic made up 12% of the 254 million tons of waste generated in 2007. That’s more than 30 million tons of plastic in one year. Some reports state plastic materials can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. When you take part in a plastics recycling program, you join a network of Green-minded people and companies who recycle millions of tons of plastics across the United States annually.
And, for every 1 ton of plastic that’s recycled, reports estimate that 7 yards of landfill space is saved. By recycling, you can also help conserve the additional 80% of energy that’s typically used when making new plastic bottles, containers and other items instead of recycling. It’s easy to see why recycling plastic is so important.
Baled plastics, specifically plastic bottles, have a high scrap value per ton. In fact, the only other recyclable that’s more lucrative is aluminum cans.
Other Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste Output
Many companies are trying to promote a neutral carbon footprint through a plastic recovery process within their processing centers. But if workplace practices do not produce great amounts of plastic waste, where can we look to recycle -- outside of the workplace? The answer is that over 80% of the plastics waste entering land fills does so from the home waste stream. So how can we eliminate this waste? One way, of course, is to recycle at home. And as a consumer, purchasing post-consumer products made with recycled plastic helps, too. But unfortunately, when it comes to post-consumer products made with plastic, the industry must try to match costs with that of virgin plastics. And that’s not always easy.
There are additional ways the country as a whole can make sure plastics don’t end up in our landfills. Since plastics are made from petroleum, they have significant BTU value. BTU, or British thermal unit, is a unit of energy. One statistic reports plastics’ BTU value is higher than coal.
That means some recycled plastics can recover energy. There are roughly 87 waste-to-energy plants in the United States. One statistic shows these plants can make enough electricity to power more than a million structures. California and Nevada both define waste-to-energy programs as a Green, renewable energy plan.
One other way plastic can be made into energy is through pyrolisis. This technology processes plastics in a way that allows them to decompose to fuel – but some say it’s currently not an efficient process.