Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recycling -- Bad for the Environment?

Who knew that recycling could be bad for the environment? Discover Magazine points out that while recycling is better than tossing in the trash, problems arise when people don't pay attention to the type of plastic they're throwing in the recycling bin, mixing plastics that shouldn't be mixed together. Why? Because the presence of other types of plastic or foreign materials like food can ruin an entire batch of recycled plastic. Of course, the plastic is first sorted at a sorting plant prior to recycling, but the automated sorting process isn't perfect, and any contamination will compromise the strength and durability of the recycled plastic that is produced. Poor quality recycled plastic will just lead manufacturers to use more new plastic instead -- and this is where recycling can be bad for the environment.

The Daily Green has a nice slideshow describing what the different recycling symbols and numbers mean.

Our city only collects number 1 (PET or PETE - polyethylene terephthalate) and 2 (HDPE - high density polyethylene) plastics for recycling. I'm very conscientious about sorting out plastic at home, but sometimes it can be tricky. I've seen some fresh fruit packaging that looked like it could be PETE, but surprisingly it turned out to be polystyrene (PS, number 6 plastic)...

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