Think nothing lasts forever? If you believe that’s true, you probably aren’t thinking about plastic. Many plastics, whether they are hard varieties used in consumer and office electronics or softer ones used in plastic water bottles and margarine tubs or plastic bags, do not decompose when they hit the landfill. Breaking, distorting, or ripping plastic items may reduce their function but not make them any more environmentally friendly. Some discards, such as bags, do considerable damage when they are disposed of improperly, often finding their way into oceans and strangling wildlife. Planning ahead for plastic recycling in Chicago and around the country is an important reality of modern life that calls for the expertise of the green waste disposal experts at CRI.
Plastics Are A Resource Hog
Aside from disposability issues, plastics production is a resource hog that consumes about 4% of world production of oil and gas in its ingredients and an equivalent amount in additional energy to manufacture. About half of all the material produced goes into disposable items such as packaging and disposable consumer items, 20 to 25% into long-term infrastructure items such as pipes, structural materials, wire coatings etc., and the remaining balance into more durable consumer applications, such as furniture, electronics, and vehicles. Not only does the material consume large quantities of resources, but it does not represent sustainable use since so much is intended for one-time or short-term use.
Problems Of Plastic Recycling In Chicago
Plastic recycling becomes complex because not all plastic is the same. In attempting to recycle it, all types of plastics can’t be mixed efficiently. There are seven identified types of plastic, based on the kinds of polymers that it contains, which bear a recycling symbol and number. Much plastic, such as that used for picnic ware and utensils distributed at fast food restaurants, is unmarked. Even though plastics reclaimers use infrared (NRI) technology to identify types of plastic, consumers often discard utensils without the thought of recycling.
Types Of Plastics
The seven types of plastics include the following:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)
- Characteristics: Clarity, strength, toughness, barrier to gas and moisture
- Used for: Soft drink, water and salad dressing bottles; peanut butter and jam jars
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Characteristics: Stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas
- Used for: Milk, juice and water bottles; trash and retail bags
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- Characteristics: Versatility, clarity, ease of blending, strength, toughness
- Used for: Juice bottles; cling films; PVC piping
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Characteristics: Ease of processing, strength, toughness, flexibility, ease of sealing, barrier to moisture
- Used for: Frozen food bags; squeezable bottles, e.g. honey, mustard; cling films; flexible container lids
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Characteristics: Strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease and oil, versatile, barrier to moisture
- Used for: Reusable microwaveable ware; kitchenware; yogurt containers; margarine tubs; microwaveable disposable take-away containers; disposable cups and plates
- Polystyrene (PS)
- Characteristics: Versatility, clarity, easily formed
- Used for: Egg cartons; packing peanuts; disposable cups, plates, trays and cutlery; disposable take-away containers
- Other (often Polycarbonate or ABS)
- Characteristics: Dependent on polymers or combination of polymers
- Used for: Beverage bottles; baby milk bottles; electronic casing
In the recycling process, plastic is separated by type, shredded and cleaned to remove impurities, and mixed with virgin plastic and reused in industry. Some types of plastics marked by number present challenges because they leach chemicals onto other items, and finding new approaches to plastic recycling is crucial. Currently over 86% is discarded in landfills, and efforts to recycle fall far behind those for newspaper, corrugated fiberboard, and other disposables.
What Is Your Plan For Plastic Recycling In Chicago?
Help change these dismal statistics with a plan for plastic recycling! Contact Chicago-based recycling company Combined Resources to help you design an eco-conscious waste management and plastic recycling plan for your company.