The Shocking Things That Happen When You Don’t Recycle Old Plastic

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Hopefully you are trying to recycle as much plastic as possible but some days, don’t you just want to pitch it all in the trash and just have it be done with? Unfortunately, a great many people seem to feel this way.


While the recycling of glass and plastic appears to be growing, only a very small amount of plastics are being recycled. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that only about 6.8 percent of all plastic was recycled in 2007. Compare that with the 50 percent of all paper that gets recycled and it’s clear that we have a problem with plastic.

Why such a low rate of recycling? One of the reasons is that not all types of plastics are accepted by curbside or community recycling programs. For example, plastic bags and packing peanuts may not be accepted.

The American Plastics Council states that about half of all communities in the US have some type of recycling program for plastics. Individual communities determine the type of plastic that they want to accept as well as the types of materials they want to recycle. So while some communities offer curbside recycling along with regular trash pick-up, other communities have residents drop off their items to be recycled at specific drop off points or centers. This means that while some communities might accept just about any type of plastic, others are limited in what they are willing to accept, such as only plastics marked with the PET or HDPE markings.

When communities do not accept certain types of plastic, what are consumers to do? Many of them, apparently, are simply opting to throw them away. This limited acceptance might be the reason why we find such low rates of plastic recycling.

There is some hope, however. At least some types of plastics are being recycled, such as individual water bottles. These are recycled at about a 23 percent rate, while milk cartons and larger sized water bottles get recycled about 28 percent of the time and, PET soft drink bottles are recycled about 37 percent of the time.

However, to truly be effective all types of plastics should be nearer the 98 percent level.

Continue to Page 2

PrevPage: 1 of 2Next