While paper enjoys a nearly 80% recycle rate, plastic recycling lags far behind at just 25%, which means that unfortunately only one in four of these bottles will end up finding its way to a recycling plant. The remaining bottles end up in landfills (it takes up to 1000 years for it to decompose thanks to some nifty chemical additives that inhibit decomposition). Currently those plastic bottles make up a significant portion of landfills; the rest have been incinerated with the trash.
One of the most important reasons why plastic needs to be recycled is because the first production of plastic requires petroleum, to the tune of 331 million barrels of petroleum and natural gas - equal to about 4.6% of total U.S. petroleum consumption each year. By recycling plastic it eliminates the need to use petroleum, plus it ensures that one less bottle will end up on the side of highways, in rivers, parks, and in the ocean.
Yes, that one little bottle does make a world of difference.
Please avoid using plastic. It’s really not as difficult as one might think. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Instead of buying bottled water, get a reusable water container (be creative! A wine bottle, a jar with a lid would work!) and fill it up at home.
- Say no to plastic bags! Bring reusable bags to the supermarket. Plain ones could also be purchased to put a company logo or personal website address on it, look at all that free marketing!
- Take old plastic bags to be recycled (several large supermarkets now have dropoff locations).
- Re-use any ziploc-type bags that are used at home. They can easily be rinsed, dried and used again! (Do not put these in the dishwasher, in extreme heat they may melt.)
- Make sure any recyclable gets into the proper bin at home. If you notice a neighbor with empty bins, offer to show them how to use their bins or even do it for them.
- Offer to give a “Recycling is Awesome!” speech at your child’s/local school. You can easily find free printouts online to take with you.
It’s up to each and every person to start making a difference for future generations and the planet. Say no to plastic!