The world of waste materials is so complicated that even the experts struggle to understand the details of how to make the most impact. Still, there are obvious ways in which we can make a difference. One area is reducing our packaging, a simple way to have an immediate impact. According to the EPA containers and packaging accounted for 28% of waste received at municipal landfills (the latest figures available). Purchasing in bulk, bringing your own bags and selecting products with minimal packaging are good ways to keep some waste out of the landfill. Clearly, reducing our waste, heading for Zero, is the ultimate goal. However, for most of us that will be a gradual process as we get more familiar with our waste stream and the alternatives we can choose.
SustainFloyd is developing a project to look at how we can help facilitate more local recycling. Our local Waste Management system does a good job of recycling a number of different waste streams, however their work could be made easier with better, more thoughtful, recycling by citizens.
There are additional items that Floyd County is not able to accept that we will experiment with collecting at the Farmers Market.
Our initial trial will be with #5 plastic and plastic ‘film’, both of which can be accepted by US manufacturers for conversion into new product.
Collections at the Floyd Farmers Market
We are starting some pilot collections at the Floyd Farmers Market from 10:00 am to 12:30 am on the following Saturdays:
October 2, October 30, November 20, 2021
We will be set up at the Farmers Market Extension at the Village Green, right behind the Farmers Market Pavilion. There is easy parking at the Village Green. We will be collecting the following:
- #5 Plastic ex. Yogurt pots
- Plastic Film ex: Single use shopping and produce bags, overwraps, ziplocks
- Printer ink cartridges
- All brands of razors, blades and packaging
- All packaging from Burt’s Bees
- All packaging from Tom’s of Maine
It is really important that you make sure all items are clean and dry. We will be storing them until we have sufficient to ship.
Our plan is to send the #5 plastic and plastic film directly to US manufacturers to be directly reincorporated into new products (Preserve and TREX). Other items will be sent to Terra Cycle, a multinational recycling group who work directly with manufactures. For example Tom’s Toothpaste will take back all their packaging through the Terra Cycle program. Any individual can join Terra Cylce and start sending their own items in directly. We simply offer this service to give one more, perhaps easier, way to participate in recycling.
What exactly is plastic film?
The image on the right shows some of the items that are collected as plastic film. Also included are plastic films labeled with #2 or #4 recycling symbol (polyethylene films), wood pellet bags and salt bags.
Not included are chip bags, freezer bags, freezer ziplocks, mesh produce bags or soil and supplement bags, PPE gloves and masks, shiny and crinkly plastic, lamination plastic.
Our SustainFloyd collections will focus on ‘film’ accepted by TREX, a company that makes high-performance composite decking using recycled plastic film.
Some Facts About Plastics and Recycling
It’s confusing in the recycling world. You can put a recycling label—the one called chasing arrow–on any product, whether it can be recycled or not. The arrows with no number in the center indicate that there is no common recycling option for that product! Also, some of the numbers used eg. #7 are rarely accepted for recycling. #7 indicates ‘other plastics’ and is hard to deal with. Here’s more about California’s efforts to address this confusion:
So, what is the use of the recycling logos? They do help to identify the products that can be recycled, and they let you avoid buying the products that are to recycle—those that will almost certainly end up in our landfills and causing pollution.
The message for us all—we need to really pay attention to what’s between those chasing arrows.
Plastic waste can cause harm to the environment, wildlife, and humans. Debris accumulation can cause habitat structures to be changed which can indirectly cause declines in species impacted. Chemical impacts including toxins released from some types of plastics posing hazards to the food chain including some types of seafood and then to humans who consume them. Threats to wildlife include consuming harmful particles of plastic debris and entanglement.
The Seven Types of Plastics
Type #1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
Widely used as bottles for beverages like water and soda. One of the most widely recycled plastics in the world.
Examples: Beverage bottles, Food bottles/jars (salad dressing, peanut butter, honey, etc.) and polyester clothing or rope.
Type #2: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
It is stronger and thicker than PET type 1 plastic. High-Density Polyethylene is strong and resistant to moisture and chemicals which makes it ideal to make containers. It is accepted at most recycling centers around the world.
Examples: Milk cartons, detergent bottles, cereal box liners, toys, buckets, park benches and rigid pipes.
Type #3: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or Vinyl)
PVC is a hard and rigid plastic that is resistant to chemicals and weathering, as well as resistant to germs, which makes it ideal to use in medical and construction and building purposes. PVC has been found to leach chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury, and cadmium.
Plumbing pipes, credit cards, human and pet toys, rain gutters, teething rings, IV fluid bags and medical tubing and oxygen masks.
Type #4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Thinner and more flexible than HDPE. It is cheap and easy to produce and most commonly recycled at your local grocery store.
Examples: Plastic/cling wrap, sandwich and bread bags, bubble wrap, garbage bags, grocery bags and beverage cups.
Type #5. Polypropylene (PP)
A more heat resistant type of plastic than some others, used to hold hot foods or food packaging to be reheated.
Examples: Straws, bottle caps, prescription bottles, hot food containers, packaging tape, disposable diapers and DVD/CD boxes
Type #6. Polystyrene (PS)
More widely known as Styrofoam. It is not easily recyclable which means that most ends up in the landfill. It is also known to leach harmful chemicals when heated.
Examples: Cups, takeout food containers, shipping and product packaging, egg cartons, cutlery and building insulation.
Type #7: Miscellaneous/Other
These are not included within the plastics of #1-6 and are typically not recyclable, they also include plastics that are layered or mixed with other plastics.
Examples: Eyeglasses, baby and sports bottles, electronics, CD/DVDs, lighting fixtures and clear plastic cutlery.
Steps of Plastic Recycling
- Collection + distribution: This step includes collection of recyclables from consumers either by the government or private companies.
- Sorting & Organizing: Plastics are sorted by machines in a recycling plant by type of plastic and by other properties like thickness, color, and use.
- Washing: This step removes impurities like labels, food residue, and dirt.
- Shredding: The plastic is fed into shredders and broken down into smaller pieces, this process allows for any remaining impurities to be found like metals.
- Identification and separation of plastics: Plastics are then sorted based on density and thickness and sorted into different classes and quality levels.
- Extruding + compounding: This final step is where the plastics are turned into a product that can then be used by manufacturers. The shredded plastic gets melted and crushed together to form pellets.
The Facts About Plastic Recycling
|1960-2018 Total Plastic Containers and Packaging MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)|
|Combustion with Energy Recovery||–||–||70||1,130||1,960||2,020||2,090||2,460||2,470||2,460|
Sources: American Chemistry Council and National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR).
In 2019, a minimum of 5,094.1 million pounds of post-consumer plastic material sourced in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in the categories of Bottles (by resin), Non-bottle Rigids, Film, and Other Plastics (excluding foam).
As was the case in 2018, most of the plastic recovered for recycling in the U.S. was purchased by reclaimers in the U.S. or Canada (87.9%) versus by overseas markets. A total of 4,476.3 million pounds was reported as reclaimed in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining 617.8 million pounds, or 12.1%, of plastic recovered for recycling was exported overseas.
Plastic bottles continued to make up the majority of the recycled plastic recovered for recycling at 55.2%, or 2,809.4 million pounds, a decrease of 48.5 million pounds as compared to 2018. The amount of plastic resin generated for use in bottles increased by 11 million pounds to 9,878 million pounds in 2019. The all-bottle recycling rate for 2019 was 28.4%, down half a percentage point from 2018.7
EPA estimated 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2018, approximately 5.0 percent of MSW generation. (Plastic packaging as a category in this analysis does not include single-service plates and cups, and trash bags, both of which are classified as nondurable goods).
The recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.1 percent in 2018 (910,000 tons). It is estimated that recycling of HDPE natural bottles (e.g., milk and water bottles) was 220,000 tons, or 29.3 percent of generation. Overall, the amount of recycled plastic containers and packaging in 2018 was almost 2 million tons or 13.6 percent of plastic containers and packaging generated. Additionally, 16.9 percent of the plastic containers and packaging waste generated was combusted with energy recovery, while the remainder (over 69 percent) was landfilled.
The total generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 was 292.4 million tons (U.S. short tons, unless specified) or 4.9 pounds per person per day. Of the MSW generated, approximately 69 million tons were recycled and 25 million tons were composted. Together, almost 94 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 32.1 percent recycling and composting rate.
The recycling rate (including composting) was 32.1 percent in 2018, down from 34.7 percent in 2015.The per capita rates in 2018 were:
- 1.16 pounds per person per day for recycling.
- 0.42 pounds per person per day for composting.
- 0.30 pounds per person per day for other food management.
The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it” Despite only representing 5% of the world population, the U.S. generates more waste than any other country in the world. (World Watch Institute)
In less than 15 years, worldwide waste is expected to double. (World Watch Institute)
Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two person household for one year.