Guide: Recycling Plastic

An Introduction on the Subject of Recycling Plastic

If you’ve ever puzzled over how a plastic product is really made, or mused over what method to use to recycle plastic, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide to plastic recycling will bring you all of the information you need to reduce your plastic consumption, reuse it when possible, and then recycle it when you’re all done. Discover here the health and environmental hazards of plastics and what you can do about them.

Environmental harm of plastics

For most of us, the motivation to recycle and reduce the plastics we use comes from our desire to protect the environment. And rightly so, since plastics cause considerable planetary harm. Consider for instance the following hazards that plastics pose to both land and marine life:

  • Nonrenewable: Because most plastics are made from crude oil, they are inherently non-renewable. As such, we have only a limited supply of the resources we need to make plastics. Drilling for oil poses even greater environmental problems.
  • Toxic pollution: Creating plastics from crude oil requires the use of toxic chemicals that are then washed into our waterways, our soil, and emitted into the air. Our article on how plastics are made will enlighten you as to how this stage of plastics’ life impacts the planet. Then head over to Ecolife’s guide to the most harmful plastics in the world for an even deeper view of the damage plastics can cause.
  • Plastic island: So much of our plastic ends up in the ocean where it is gather into what’s now known as the plastic island in the Pacific. This plastic kills wildlife, smothers coral reefs, and much more. Our article about the growing plastic island problem will give you all of the gory details.
  • Biodegradability: Though technically plastics will eventually break down in the environment, most take a long, long time to do so (we’re talking hundreds of years). That means resources are locked up in products in landfills for centuries, unusable  and wasted.

Reducing your use of plastics

One of the most important lessons to learn when discovering the world of plastics is how toxic they are when they are made, and how long they last in the environment when you’re done with them. The pollution that plastics create throughout their lifecycles is tremendous, and so the best way to recycle plastics is to consume fewer of them. Often referred to as “precycling” this is the most effective way of reducing the environmental burden of plastics on the environment. Our article on how to reduce plastics in your life will give you the most effective methods for cutting your plastic consumption.

Recycling plastics

When you can’t reduce or reuse the plastics you consume, recycling is the only other option. And each plastic is handled differently since the recycling process of each type varies depending on how it was made and what it will become in the future. Read more on how plastics are recycled to find out what’s involved in the plastic recycling process and how recycling benefits our industries and our economy.

Know your plastic codes

There are many types of plastics, and knowing the plastic codes used to identify each one is key to understanding how plastic recycling works. We’ve got a plastics number guide to help you navigate the world of plastic types, which covers all of the numbers, from 1-7:

  • Plastic #1- PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
  • Plastic #2 - HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
  • Plastic #3 - PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • Plastic #4 - LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
  • Plastic #5 - PP (polypropylene)
  • Plastic #6 - PS (polystyrene)
  • Plastic #7 - Other plastics

For more information read our article on plastic symbols.

Once you get a handle on how to identify each of these plastics, how they perform, and where you use them in your everyday life, you can begin to incorporate plastic recycling into your daily routine.


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