Recycled plastics are used to make hundreds of everyday items and building materials, from clothing and blankets to carpet and composite lumber. Plastic grocery bags and bottles can also be made into new trash bags, containers and even shopping carts. These second generation uses, among many others, have made recycled plastics a hot commodity.
More than 80 percent of U.S. households have access to a plastics recycling program, whether it’s curbside collection, a community drop-off center or another service. In fact, over the past several years, the number of U.S. plastics recycling businesses has nearly tripled.
Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies, Inc. (AERT), for example, buys low density polyethylene pre-consumer and high density polyethylene post-consumer plastics to recycle and use in the manufacturing of its composite building products, including MoistureShield® composite decking. AERT’s process alone stops over 270 million pounds of trash from entering landfills each year.
Despite the continued growth in recycling opportunities and the environmental advantages it offers, in many areas demand for recycled plastics still exceeds the available supply. One of the challenges preventing building professionals and consumers from recycling more plastics is confusion on which materials are suitable for recycling, and where they need to go (i.e. in the recycling bin or to a drop-off location). The following are some useful resources to make recycling plastics, as well as other materials, easier.
“Our choices at all levels – individual, community, corporate and government – affect nature. And they affect us.” – David Suzuki
Plastics 101 - Plastic Packaging Resin Identification Coding System
The nationwide coding system gives plastic materials a resin identification code (1-7) based on the type of polymer it’s made from. These numbers can be found with arrows around them on the bottom of plastic materials, and are intended to help consumers know whether and how to recycle various plastic products and packaging.
Plastic Recycling Locations
Earth911.com provides businesses and consumers with solutions for products’ end-of-life. The site allows users to find recycling centers in their area for different types of plastics, including plastic bags, wrap, film and packaging peanuts, as well as construction materials, household items, electronics and more.
Plastic Bag Recycling
Plasticbagrecycling.org is an online resource for plastic bag and film recycling for consumers, businesses, recyclers and retailers. Consumers can view a handy list of stores that offer plastic bag recycling in each state.
State and Local Recycling Websites
King County, Washington http://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/index.asp
State and local recycling websites provide general recycling information, as well as specific guidelines, programs and facilities for their areas. Check your local agency for resources they may offer.