The development of plastics may have been revolutionary back in the mid-century, but now they are a revolting problem. Plastics were initially more of a boon than a bane because they were lightweight, long-lasting, and durable, which was a much better option in the 1950s than other materials such as paper and cardboard. Back then, no one thought about recyclable plastic.
But now, plastics are produced in such large quantities and so widely used by consumers that plastic waste is becoming a huge problem. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year, yet only around 10% of that plastic gets recycled. And unfortunately, whatever doesn’t get recycled ends up polluting landfills, the ocean, or it gets incinerated, which produces harmful greenhouse gases.
While part of the problem is a lack of quality recycling programs and facilities that can handle all that plastic waste, it is also a result of people simply not understanding how to properly recycle plastic and that not all plastics are the same.
Not All Plastics Are Recyclable
If we all took a little more time to understand plastic and the difference between the various plastic materials, it could make a huge difference in the amount of plastic waste polluting the planet. There are seven different types of plastic, and not all are widely accepted for recycling, and some require extra effort to ensure they do get recycled.
Understanding the difference between these plastics could help people avoid buying things that are made from plastic but aren’t likely to be recycled. It can also help consumers better understand how to properly recycle the plastics they do purchase.
- #1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is one of the most popular plastics. It is typically used for beverage and water bottles as well as food containers. This plastic is safe to use and is widely accepted at recycling facilities.
- #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is another commonly used plastic. It is often used for milk jugs, cleaner bottles, bags, and toys. This plastic is considered one of the safest to use and is also accepted at most recycling centers.
- #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is also a very popular plastic material, but unfortunately, it isn’t often recycled. PVC is used for household cleaner bottles, garden hoses, plastic pipes, and more. It has high chlorine content and should NEVER be burned outside of regulated incinerators because it produces toxic gasses, and the ash contains toxic elements. Repurposing PVC items and buy-back programs from manufacturers are options. Check with your local recycling provider to see if they accept #3.
- #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is generally considered a safe plastic because it has much less toxicity than others. However, as a film, it is not widely accepted at recycling plants. Typically, LDPE is used for things like packaging foam, shopping bags, bread bags, plastic food wraps, and squeeze bottles. Clean LDPE films and bags can be recycled with shopping bags at supermarkets.
- #5 PP (polypropylene) is considered the second most commonly used plastic next to PET. It is a food-safe and heat-resistant plastic, meaning it is often used for microwavable containers, dinnerware, plastic kitchenware, yogurt cups, and even medicine containers. PP is recyclable plastic, and many but not all facilities will accept it. So make sure you check with your provider or local drop-off facility to make sure it gets recycled.
- #6 PS (polystyrene) is typically used for disposable coffee cups, take-out containers, packing peanuts, and Styrofoam. Though it is considered food-safe, and is often used for food purposes, it has been known to leach harmful chemicals into food. It breaks down easily and leaches toxic chemicals which are two good reasons to keep it out of landfills where it can contaminate soil and groundwater. PS is also not usually recycled curbside. It typically must be taken to a drop-off center but is very recyclable into new products
- #7 Other is the number used to identify all other plastics that do not fall within the above categories. This can include mixed plastics and bioplastics. Most often, however, #7 includes polycarbonate, which contains the highly toxic substance BPA (Bisphenol A). #7 is used for a wide variety of products, such as reusable water bottles, CDs, baby bottles, lids, and dental equipment, but it is generally not recyclable.
Contaminated Plastics Can Ruin Recyclable Plastic
It’s important to note that even plastics that are considered recyclable and widely accepted can still be turned away at recycling plants. When plastic materials are covered in food or other substances, for example, they will not be accepted and instead will be sent to a landfill or incinerated. This is why it is crucial for individuals to thoroughly clean their recyclable plastics before tossing them in the recycling bin. One persons’ contaminated plastics can ruin the entire load, which then forces the shipment to a landfill. Overall, it wastes taxpayer money because it’s handled twice and the landfill also charges for disposal.
Using Products Made of Recycled Plastic Helps
While not all plastics are recyclable, some are reusable and can be used for other purposes. Making products out of recycled plastic can help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or incinerated. It can also help reduce the need for new plastics to be produced.
HDPE, for example, while recyclable on its own, is also widely used and repurposed to create other products after its initial use. At Polly Products, we used 100% recycled plastic HDPE from things like milk jugs and detergent bottles to create our line of outdoor recreational furniture.
Creating products made of recycled plastic is part of our green mission to help protect the planet. Manufacturing, selling, and purchasing products made of recycled plastic have numerous benefits, including:
- Plastic waste reduction
- Reduced oil consumption
- Energy saving
- Fewer carbon emissions
- Overall, better for the environment and our health
The Polly Products Difference
At Polly Products, we maintain the highest standards for ecological conservation in both our business practices and our product development. Our products are made of 100% recycled HDPE plastic which is safe, reusable, and recyclable. Furthermore, our products use zero formaldehyde, which can be found in other recycled plastic products, and we offer a 20-year warranty that beats out most competitors.
Located in rural Michigan, we proudly supply environmentally responsible outdoor furniture, 100% made and assembled in the USA. Check out our website for more information about our products and how Polly Products is making a difference.