Plastic Recycling Tips for the Holidays
A holiday “how to” guide for plastic reuse and recycling
This holiday season, Americans will generate 25 percent more waste, resulting in an extra 5 million tons of garbage! To encourage consumers to “trim their trash” while trimming their tree, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and Bob Lilienfeld, editor of the Use Less Stuff (ULS) Report, have teamed up to provide a holiday “how to” guide for reusing and recycling everyday plastics that will result in savings to the pocketbook and to the environment.
"The ULS Report has been working to reduce holiday waste for many years. We're very happy that organizations such as the ACC are recognizing the value of these efforts and welcome their cooperation and involvement," Lilienfeld says.
Going Green With Environmental Expert Bob Lilienfeld
During the excitement of the holidays, it’s easy to forget about the extra waste that is generated and how everyone plays an important part in reducing its impact on landfills. Turning reuse and recycling tips into household habits will help reduce trash and help protect our environment, year-round. When it comes to trimming waste and conserving resources, recycling plastic bottles and bags are actions consumers can take to make a big difference.
Lightweight, shatter resistant plastic beverage bottles are great to have on hand for holiday parties and other celebrations. They are also among the most readily recycled plastics. Over 80 percent of U.S. households have access to a plastics recycling program, be it curbside collection or community drop-off centers. Recycling plastic bottles is not only convenient; it helps to conserve energy. The 3 billion pounds of plastic bottles that were recycled in the United States in 2006 saved enough energy to heat 1.6 million homes.
From toting gifts to carrying groceries, plastic bags can be used and reused for dozens of holiday-related activities throughout the season. In addition to being convenient and recyclable1, plastic bags have many positive economic and environmental attributes. More than 90 percent of today's consumers reuse plastic bags as liners for household wastebaskets, shoe totes and laundry or garment bags—saving both time and money. Our environment also benefits because today’s lightweight plastic bags require 70 percent less energy to manufacture and produce 50 percent less greenhouse gasses than paper alternatives. Plus plastic bags are fully recyclable.
Plastics are a valuable resource and should be reused and recycled whenever possible. The following steps make it easy to contribute to a cleaner planet during any season.
- Find out which plastics are accepted for recycling in your community and where they can be taken. Though recycling varies, most community programs collect plastic bottles and many grocery and retail chains now offer bins to collect used plastic bags and wraps for recycling.
- Know what to recycle with your bottles. A “bottle” is any container with a neck or opening that’s smaller than its base. When in doubt, just Check The NeckSM.
Plastic bottles include milk jugs; beverage containers; bottles from salad dressing, oil and other condiments; food jars for items like peanut butter and mayonnaise; and bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners.
- Know what to recycle with your bags. When you recycle your bags, include all plastic bags from grocery and retail stores, dry cleaners, plastic bags that cover newspapers, and product wraps from paper towels, napkins, bathroom tissue and diapers.
- Clean and empty. Before tossing them in the recycle bin, make sure bottles are appropriately rinsed and that caps are removed. Similarly, bags should be clean and empty of trash or receipts.
- Bring bottles back to the bin. When bottles are emptied away from home, temporarily store them in a backpack or briefcase, or simply leave them in the car until arriving home to place in a recycle bin.
- Store bags in a bag. Storing plastic bags and other wraps in a plastic bag offers neat, convenient storage. Simply knot the handles when you’re ready to drop them off at your local grocer or retailer.
- Reuse those bags! From trashcan liners to pet pick-up, plastic bags can be used dozens of ways.
- Pitch in beyond the kitchen. While many recyclable bottles and bags come from the kitchen, don’t forget to check the bathrooms and laundry room for shampoo and detergent bottles and reuse your plastic bags as trash can liners throughout the house.
- When in doubt, leave it out. Be careful not to contaminate your recyclables with garbage or items that aren’t recycled in your area.
- Bridge the second generation gap. It’s important to remember that recycled plastics go on to become second generation products like carpet, fleece jackets and new bottles and bags.
“These tough economic times require all of us to think smarter about using less stuff and saving more money,” says Lilienfeld. “The holidays provide consumers the perfect opportunity to practice reducing their waste by reusing and recycling lots of stuff, including plastics.”
1Recycling may not be available in all areas. Check to see if recycling exists in your community. For a list of stores that recycle plastic bags, see: www.plasticbagrecycling.org.
Resources and Links