Most plastics can be recycled into a variety of new products. This saves petroleum and landfill space. Recycling plastic also keeps toxins out of the atmosphere in areas where waste is incinerated for energy.
There are seven types of plastic resins: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and a composite of resins generally marked as "other."
According to the American Chemistry Council (see Resources), PET can be recycled into bottles, deli trays, carpets, clothing, textiles and automobile parts. HDPE can be recycled into bottles for laundry products and motor oil, recycling bins, agricultural pipe, bags, garden edging and plastic lumber. Recycled PVC can become playground equipment, flooring tiles and air bubble cushioning. Recycled LDPE can be used to manufacture bags, compost bins and plastic lumber. Polypropylene can be recycled into automobile parts including battery casings, textiles, industrial fibers and films used for bulk packaging. Polystyrene can be recycled into office accessories, garden nursery supplies and protective package cushioning.
By recycling plastic, fewer raw material is needed to make new products. The limiting factor for recycling plastic is sufficient quantity of post-consumer materials.
While all types of plastic are technically recyclable, different municipalities collect different types, so check with your jurisdiction's Department of Environment or Natural Resources for proper disposal.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 36.6 percent of soda bottles and 28 percent of HDPE bottles were recycled in 2007.
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