With over a trillion plastic bags used annually around the world, recycling plastic bags is essential to waste reduction and the conservation of non-renewable natural resources. Even as countries and cities across the globe take steps to reduce the use of plastic bags, it is safe to assume they are here to stay, necessitating a mindfulness of ecological sustainability. There is still a lot of effort needed, too; according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 7 percent of plastic bags were recycled in 2007. Plastic bags are one of the most widespread forms of litter. In fact, the not-for-profit Center for Marine Conservation identifies them as one of the top types of trash collected during coastline cleanups. They are discarded in parks and on highways, get caught in trees, clog gutters and sewers, and even pose threats to ocean life that mistake them for food. But the most significant problem with discarded plastic bags-and the reason they are so prevalent as litter-is that they are not. Instead of biodegrading, plastic bags undergo a process known as photodegradation. Photodegradation involves the chemical breakdown of a substance into smaller pieces due to the absorption of sunlight. Plastic bags decompose for at least hundreds of years, eventually contaminating our soil and water. Although 500 years is a widely cited estimate, scientists do not know exactly how long plastic bags take to decompose. They have only been around for about half a century, so there is no empirical evidence to provide a concrete timeline.
Scientists estimate decomposition rates with respirometry tests. These tests involve placing waste into an environment designed to stimulate decomposition and using carbon dioxide emissions to determine a breakdown rate. Since microbes do not eat the polyethylene from which plastic bags are made, there are no carbon dioxide emissions to measure. The only certainty is that the process of photodegradation for plastic bags takes a very long time. The polyethylene used in the production of plastic bags comes from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Therefore, in addition to reducing unsightly, potentially damaging litter and solid waste in landfills, recycling plastic bags saves 11 barrels of oil per ton of bags recycled, according to the EPA. Besides new bags, recycled plastic bags also go toward making composite
and pellets or resin for the production of other plastic goods. In this way, recycling plastic bags contributes to conservation of energy and materials in other industries, as well. There are a few compelling reasons why plastic bags may be a more eco-friendly option than paper bags. The EPA points out that production of plastic bags requires 40 percent less energy than the production of paper bags, and that paper bag manufacturing creates 70 percent more air pollution and 50 percent more water pollution. In addition, recycling plastic bags uses a staggering 91 percent less energy than bags. Plastic bags are also the greener choice where solid waste is concerned; 1000 plastic bags equal 15 pounds of waste, while the same number of paper bags creates 140 pounds of waste.
Whether plastic or paper bags are more environmentally friendly is under debate. There really is no right answer, and fortunately, the spread of reusable bags has provided an alternative. Most types of. This includes dry cleaner bags, food storage baggies, newspaper bags, much of the plastic packaging used for food and household items (such as bread sacks, cereal box liners, fresh produce bags, and wrap around cases of bottled beverages and packs of napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper), and packaging used for furniture and electronics. Cling wraps, heavily painted plastic bags, certain pre-packaged food bags (especially frozen foods), and those treated with substantial adhesive material cannot be recycled. Plastic bags should be clean, dry, and empty when deposited for recycling. Many grocery stores serve as drop-off points for plastic bag recycling. For more information about whether a certain type of bag is able to be recycled, and to find a plastic bag recycling location near you, visit. Was this page useful? Why is Recycling Plastic Important? Plastics are a versatile material that can be a valuable asset to your corporate Green recycling program. Your business can greatly reduce destructive waste output and cut costs associated with waste management fees through a Green recycling program with Complete Recycling. Because, you can zero in on the benefits that result from the many markets that Complete Recycling is able to sell your materials to.
Plastics are often recycled to make items such as clothes, carpet, containers, bottles, plastic lumber, films, grocery bags, molding materials, and lawn and garden products, to name a few. Plastic by the Numbers: Plastic Recycling Facts How much of our solid waste is plastic? The Environmental Protection Agency reports plastic made up 12% of the 254 million tons of waste generated in 2007. That s more than 30 million tons of plastic in one year. Some reports state plastic materials can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. When you take part in our, you join a network of Green-minded people and companies who recycle millions of tons of plastics across the United States annually. And, for every 1 ton of plastic that s recycled, reports estimate that 7 yards of landfill space is saved. By recycling, you can also help conserve the additional 80% of energy that s typically used when making new plastic bottles, containers and other items instead of recycling. It s easy to see why recycling plastic is so important. Baled plastics, specifically plastic bottles, have a high scrap value per ton. In fact, the only other recyclable that s more lucrative is aluminum cans. Complete Recycling partners with you to ensure your business gets the most value out of your plastic recyclables. We do this through education on how to sort different resins and through our equipment leasing programs. Other Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste Output Companies just like yours are trying to promote a neutral carbon footprint through an alliance with Complete Recycling for plastic recovery.
But many of our clients also want to know how they can take it a step further out of the workplace. One way, of course, is to recycle at home. And as a consumer, purchasing post-consumer products made with recycled plastic helps, too. But unfortunately, when it comes to post-consumer products made with plastic, the industry must try to match costs with that of virgin plastics. And that s not always easy. There are additional ways the country as a whole can make sure plastics don t end up in our landfills. Since, they have significant BTU value. BTU, or British thermal unit, is a unit of energy. One statistic reports plastics BTU value is higher than coal. That means some recycled plastics can recover energy. There are roughly 87 waste-to-energy plants in the United States. One statistic shows these plants can make enough electricity to power more than a million structures. California and Nevada, two states Complete Recycling serves, both define waste-to-energy programs as a Green, renewable energy plan. One other way plastic can be made into energy is through pyrolisis. This technology processes plastics in a way that allows them to decompose to fuel but some say it s currently not an efficient process. Take advantage of the benefits of a corporate Green plastic recycling program: Contact Complete Recycling today. What happens to plastics once they leave your facility? Learn more about the.