Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reducing, reusing and recycling plastic

Plastic bag recycling under sink
 Plastic is a double edge sword. It has been a great boon for manufactures of most everything, being that it is inexpensive, highly flexible and durable. It can be made into house siding, sandwich bags, water pipes, shoes and even camera bodies. So, what's not to like about it?

Since it is virtually indestructible, plastic becomes a major long-term waste concern for our natural environment. The United States plastic industry annually produces 80 billion pounds of plastic. Unfortunately, even with our recycling efforts, over 60 billion  pounds of plastic ends up as garbage each year.  Another concern regarding continued dependence upon plastic products is their composition of gas and oil, nonrenewable resources.

If you take notice of the roadside, you're almost sure to see plastic bags. Sadly, plastics find themselves spread all throughout our waterways and land masses. So, what can we do to reduce all of this plastic waste?

One place to start is by not purchasing or using plastic when possible.  While shopping, take shopping bags with you. Best to keep a supply stored in the car, or on your bike rack, so they're ready for use when you are. If you do find yourself using plastic, consider how it might be reused or recycled.  We like to wash out plastic sandwich bags and reuse them. They simply need to be turned inside out to dry. Plastic shopping bags can be recycled at a number of stores.

Croc in the water
I was pleased to discover research is being performed on plant-based plastics at the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Polymers.  This center has a mission to "design, prepare and implement  polymers derived from renewable resources for a wide range of advanced applications , and to promote future economic  development, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability in the emergent area of biobased  products."

 Let's all do what we can to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics.  AND, if you  really want to be a purist, use cash instead of plastic for all of your purchases!


  1. In a related story, Pastics2Oil, as the name implies, has come up with a "solution" to the plastic part of the problem.

    Is this really a solution or they just moving the target? :-)

  2. I share your skepticism. Turning plastic back into oil seems a bit like alchemy to me. However I certainly hope it might prove to be successful!