As we all know, plastic is all around us. It’s involved in public interactions we have. Maybe it’s the plastic cup you got from Starbucks this morning, or maybe it was the bag your new dress was placed in when you bought it last night. While we can turn down plastic sometimes, it’s not always simple. If you forgot a reusable cup, you can’t ask a Starbucks worker to just put the drink in your hands. Even though it’s not ideal, plastic has become a core part of our society.
Since we can’t avoid plastic altogether, the least we can do is take actions to help minimize the negative impact on the environment. A big step that many of us should be taking is recycling our single-use plastics when possible. Maybe you already have a recycling bin in your home and feel that you are doing your part. This is a great start, but there is a lot of plastic unaccounted for. In fact, up to 91% of plastic isn’t recycled (1).
Read on for tips on how to recycle plastic correctly, and as often as possible.
Read the label
Have you ever taken a look at the bottom of a plastic bottle and noticed a symbol? This is because in the United States, we have what are referred to as Resin Identification Codes (2). These codes were created by the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. back in 1988. There are seven codes that may appear on a package that utilizes this system, and they are labeled 1-7. The numbers identify the resin content in a plastic, which is important to know for recycling purposes. However, just knowing the code number won’t make it clear how, or if, you can recycle the plastic.
Know your local program
In the United States, recycling programs differ by area. So, while your area may accept a plastic jug with the lid and label on, a town a few miles over may say you can only recycle the jug if you have removed the lid and label. Luckily, there are plenty of online resources you can utilize to know what can be recycled in your area. You can use this website to search your zip code and check out local resources. These will make you aware of any nuances in your area that you wouldn’t have guessed. Even if you feel that you are a seasoned recycler, it’s worth checking out because changes can be made to your recycling program at any time.
Make a plan
Yes, it’s definitely easier to recycle items that are allowed in your local recycling program. When this is the case, all you have to do is leave the recyclables in a bin on the side of the road and wait for local services to haul them away. What about the items that your local recycling program doesn’t accept? Should you just give up and throw these away? Simply answered, no. There are often alternatives when it comes to recycling. Within the same database you used to find the regulations for your area’s recycling program, they typically offer a space for alternatives. In some areas, these items are considered ones that are “Beyond the Blue Bin,” as they cannot go in the typical blue bin that many use to recycle. By using this resource, you can search by zip code on specific plastics to see where is nearby that you can bring them to recycle. Then, when you find a place nearby that accepts some of your “beyond the blue bin” items, you can make a plan to make the drive once a month. You can keep these items in a separate bin, then go to the nearest facility that accepts them whenever you happen to be in the area. This is a bit of a hassle to some people, but it’s actions like this that help us treat the environment fairly