You know how important it is to protect and preserve Mother Earth, and now that you’ve got the recycling of paper under your belt, you’re turning your attention to the recycling of plastic. You’ve read up on the meaning of the numbers on the bottom of plastic and you know which ones your sanitation department will take. Now all you need to do is make sure you put the appropriate items in the recycle bin, which in turn, will reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the landfill, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

While the majority of the plastic collected curbside will get recycled, that doesn’t mean it won’t end up in the landfill at some point. It all depends upon the products the plastic is turned into. Most recycled plastic is downcycled, that is, it is turned into lower and lower quality products until no longer possible. While some of these products like plastic lumber might stand the test of time and never end up in the landfill, others like textiles will not.

Just because you put plastic into the recycle bin and the sanitation department collects it does not guarantee it will stay out of the landfill, nor does it guarantee a reduction in the use of plastic. In fact, the ability to recycle plastic often leads to an increase in its usage. When given the choice between paper or plastic products, both of which can be recycled, people will often go with the latter simply because of durability. Some virgin resin producers capitalize on this notion and promote the recycling of plastics in order to increase sales. Never mind the negatives involved in the production of plastic.

In order to make most plastic products, manufacturers must rely upon the use of nonrenewable materials, in particular fossil fuels. With each plastic product made, the earth’s natural resources dwindle. Even the production of plastic from recycled matter requires the use of nonrenewable materials. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recycle it, however. Although some nonrenewable resources will be used, recycling will get more out of the plastic and keep it out of the landfill a little longer, if not forever.

While recycling is always a good idea, reduction is key with plastic. Look for products that can be used time and again, such as detergent or shampoo bottles that can be refilled. Look for products with very little plastic packaging, such as an individual box of tissue rather than three bundled together. When forced to buy products wrapped in plastic, look for ones with packaging made from recycled matter or that can be recycled. Try to keep your use of plastic minimal, and when possible, support efforts for better legislation regarding the recycling efforts of manufacturers.

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