Plastic Quiz

True or False? 

Recycled plastic containers are usually made into new ones. 

This is false.   Almost 100% of all bottles and containers purchased use virgin (newly manufactured) plastic.  When you put plastic in your recycling bin, it is taken by truck to a recycling facility to be sorted and baled.  Then its sent by another truck to a processor where its cleaned and shredded.  At that point, its loaded on a container ship and sent to Asia.  There, it is "downcycled" to another product such as fleece, carpeting, plastic lumber, etc.  This finished product is put back on yet another boat to be sold in another country.   This is an energy and carbon dioxide intensive path.

A plastic container labeled with a number inside a logo like this:  means its recyclable. 

This is false.  This logo simply indicates which type of plastic resin was used for the product.  A significant portion of plastic with this symbol can't be recycled.  For example, plastic resin code #6 indicates polystyrene, a plastic that is not easily recycled.  Though some recycling programs may accept #6 containers in their bins simply to make sorting easier for consumers, very few municipal programs that we know of actually recycle #6 plastic.  It all ends up in a landfill or as litter. 

Paper bags are better than plastic ones. 

This is not necessarily true.  Both choices have negative environmental consequences.  Many people think paper is much better because its biodegradable and isn’t made from petroleum.  But paper manufacturing uses enormous quantities of water and energy in its production relative to plastic.   Paper bags don’t hold up as well in wet environments so many stores double up, making the choice of paper even more environmentally destructive. Virgin paper comes from trees which in many cases take decades to grow before they can be harvested for paper.  Finally, paper bags weigh as much as 10 times more than plastic ones, making transportation related carbon dioxide emissions and the volume they consume in landfills much higher.  

We encourage the use of reusable shopping bags. The next best alternatives are the bioplastic t-shirt bags or post consumer recycled paper bags we offer.

Most of our recyclable plastic is actually recycled

False.  Less than 10% of the recyclable plastic used in the U.S. each year is actually recycled.  The rest, amounting to a staggering 28 million tons according to the EPA, is thrown in landfills.  That means we’re throwing away the equivalent of the weight of three hundred ninety-one Boeing 747 jumbo jets of plastic every single day!  

25% of the volume of our landfills is plastic.  This plastic will take hundreds of years to break down.  At the current rate, we will simply run out of landfill space before this happens.