Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Week 6: Playing with numbers
In honor of the current financial meltdown and election season in the US, I decided to devote this week's entry to numbers. With all this confusion about subprime plastics and plastic-barrel spending, I hope that the following information will help you translate any panic into informed decision-making about your long term consumption investments. Over the following 7 weeks, I will focus on each one of these numbers in more detail, but here is a brief summary of each. Elizabeth Royte's book, Garbage Land was my primary reference...
#1: PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)--this is the stuff of water & soda bottles. It is one of the most widely used plastics and the poster child of recyclability.
#2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene)--Got milk jugs? Got garbage bags? Then you've got HDPE--also widely used with "high" recyclability.
#3: PVC (polyvinyl chloride)--As it stands, I would be unemployed without this human carcinogen, PVC. The aquarium I work for would cease to exist without the PVC "circulatory system" that is the lifeblood of all of the tanks & exhibits. PVC also makes appearances in carpet backing, car parts, "rubber duckies", many shampoo bottles, cleaning product containers, syrup bottles, and (eww) Coffemate bottles. This CANNOT be recycled and will "contaminate" your weekly recycling bin, meaning if you throw #3 in with the rest, you risk your entire recycling efforts being dumped with the rest of the garbage.
#4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene)--this is the stuff of plastic bags & packaging, "Joe six-pack" rings, plastic lids, plastic wrap, sandwich/bread bags, lab equipment, and coated paper board (yikes, I don't like the sound of this as I have likely been pitching out a lot of coated paperboard products). Some grocery stores serve as collection sites for bag recycling...err, downcyling into more shopping bags or various construction materials.
#5: PP (polypropylene)--Tupperware party, anyone? PP is also used in bottle caps (screw on & hinged), snack food wraps. As a side note, the microfiber you see in everything from sports apparel to furniture upholstery is made from nylon & polyester, which are derivatives of polypropylene. Dare I say that I do yoga in polypropylene on a petroleum based yoga mat that off-gases right into my "child's pose" nose.
#6: PS (polystyrene)--aka STYROFOAM--you know what this is. It CANNOT be recycled, but by all means, it can be reused. So knock yourself out with that Styrofoam shed you've always wanted to build. It may blow over and you may not be able to find it in a snow storm, but by golly, it will be there forever!
#7: "other"--basically, this is just a hodgepodge of polymers and for all practical purposes CANNOT be recycled. So, don't kid yourself by throwing it in the recycle bin. In your mind it is recycled. In reality, it is dumped or burned. #7's are linked to the recent case of the "nefarious Nalgene" & "sinister sippy cups" containing Bisphenol A (BPA). I also just realized that I need to decide if I am including products with plastic lining (like tin cans) in my collection (insert colorful expletive)...I'll keep you posted.