How to Recycle Plastic
Plastic is one of our most useful and adaptable modern materials. It’s used around the world in countless applications from beverage cups to baby diapers to kayaks to medical devices. It makes life more convenient, helps food last longer and even saves lives.
But the major downside of plastic is that it doesn’t decompose like natural materials. So plastic that isn’t reused or recycled will sit in our landfills (or on our oceans) for decades or even centuries, depending on the type of plastic.
According to Canada-based Recycle Track Systems (RTS), of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic made in the last 70 years since popular use, 6.3 billion tons have become waste. Only 9% of that waste plastic is recycled.
We can’t have healthy people or healthy plant and animal life without a healthy planet. So we’ve made a commitment to join worldwide efforts to see more of that plastic recycled…and to use some of that recycled plastic in all of our products.
Which Plastic Products Recycle the Best?
It’s important to know that, unlike glass and metal that can be recycled many times, plastic’s quality downgrades with each recycling process. After two or three times it’s no longer usable.
It’s also important to know that just because your food storage container has a recycle number with the logo doesn’t mean it gets recycled. It’s often simply too expensive to sort through the various types of plastics and to clean what’s been left dirty. Items like plastic bags and straws aren’t recyclable at all.
Even “recyclable” coffee cups can only be recycled once the paper and plastic components have been separated, which requires a special machine. So these rarely get recycled.
“The easiest items to recycle are the products made from a single material,” says this article from National Geographic. “Water bottles that are 100% PET plastic are a prime example of this…they have the highest recycling value.”
How to Recycle Plastic at Home
Because only a small percentage of plastics can be recycled, and the recycling process is more expensive than creating new plastic, the best action we can take personally is to buy less of it.
One of the biggest culprits of our modern, busy lifestyle is single-use foods and beverages packaged in plastic. Another is plastic shopping and bread bags. Plastic combined with another material (like those “recyclable” coffee cups) won’t be recycled. Avoid these plastics as much as you can.
Rather than buying endless Ziplock® bags, use glass storage containers. Even Tupperware®, which is plastic, is a better choice than disposable bags because it can be reused for decades (and then recycled!).
When it comes to putting items in your home recycle bin: “Generally, the higher the number, the less recyclable it is. Most recycling centers will recycle plastics 1 and 2 without a problem. Past that, it gets tricky,” says EarthDay.org.
[NOTE: Each city and/or county has its own recycling requirements and services. Check into yours for more details. Here’s a helpful article from the Sierra Club on recycling plastics #3-6 and where you can find local recycling centers.]
And don’t forget to wash everything before you put it in the bin. Dirty plastic can’t be recycled.
Clothing from Recycled Water Bottles?
The clothing industry has used polyester yarns for almost 100 years. Modern polyester is highly-adaptable, comfortable, wrinkle-free—and is essentially plastic! It comes from the same base ingredient: petroleum.
Here at Storm Creek we’re committed to sustainability. As part of that, the polyester yarn we use in our apparel comes from recycled 100% PET plastic—water bottles. These contain no BPAs or other ingredients that are harmful.
As you can see on our product pages, our items are labeled with the number of recycled bottles we use in them. One item may use 3 recycled bottles-worth, another may use up to 23 bottles-worth of this polyester yarn.
What Other Products can be Made from Recycled Plastic?
Many other items can be made from recycled plastic including (but not limited to):
- More water bottles
- Other household plastic bottles like shampoo and laundry detergent
- Plates, cups and cutlery
- Grocery bags and trash bags
- Yoga mats
- Mailers and packaging
- Diapers, shoes and backpacks
- Car parts
- Rugs and carpets
As a consumer you can support companies that use recycled plastic in their manufacturing by buying from them. Then let them know why you’re buying from them—and let their competition know, too!
Plastic is here to stay. But we can all help it make less of an environmental impact by the choices we make every day.