Just in case anyone is interested, I thought I would report out on a few observations so far...
- I average about 25 plastic items a week, except for last week. I had 100 items (half of which were band-aids as you can make out in the photo. They were part of my Halloween costume...any guesses?)
- Straws are my nemesis. They are so sneaky. I really have to be alert if I want to have a straw-free waste stream. Last night I had a dream I ordered a beer, and the server brought it to me with a straw...and I drank it! I never thought of myself as a straw user until I started this endeavor. Try collecting any straws you get for a month...you'll be surprised.
- I eat a lot of corn chips. Like, a lot. I think the tortilla chip bag is a mainstay in my weekly plastic stream. I heart Green Mountain Gringo & Garden of Eatin' chips.
- Joe Plastic. I also love Trader Joe's. I have made one trip there since September and on that one trip (camera zoom in to my face & shopping cart), I realized that almost EVERYTHING there is packaged in plastic...even the bulk avocados.
HDPE technology is about 60 years old. According to one website, two dudes named Paul & Bob from Phillips Petroleum came up with it and called it "Marlex". According to another website, a guy named Zeigler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for "his invention of HDPE."
Regardless, I would like to personally thank (insert true inventor's name here) for inventing a source of happiness to Friday gym class for me. "Hula Hoop War" was my FAVORITE. Eric Hammer was the best, but my best friend, Katy and I would team up to bring his hoop down by spinning into it from both sides with the advanced technique known as "chicken scratch." The hula hoop was one of the "first editions" of HDPE.
HDPE is the plastic superhero: able to withstand temps ranging from -100 C to 120 C (-148 F to 248 F), powerful enough to hold acids, alcohols & bases, and contain a gallon of milk in a single container! HDPE in its raw form (pellets or "nurdles") looks like this:
These cute lil' fellas are formed from a highly volatile compound of crude oil called naphtha (a euphemism for crude solvent coal tar and also the root of the word napalm). If you cause naphtha to get all hot & bothered, it releases ethylene gas, and these free loving gas particles join hands to form long chains of ethylene molecules. So, these "many ethylenes" are commonly known as polyethylene. Now, take this choo-choo train of ethylenes and cram them all together like drunkards at the St. Patrick's Day parade in Southie, and you've got high-density polyethylene. Because of these durable, resistant & tight-packing qualities, HDPE is the golden child of labs & medical facilities around the world.
HDPE incarnations include, but are not limited to the following:
- motor oil containers
- milk jugs
- cutting boards
- stiff plastic bags (some retail stores have them)
- garbage bags
- grocery bags (aka, "plastic jellyfish", "turtle killer", "tree shower cap", "African snowflakes", "#2 for #2", "poorman's lunch box")
- frozen food containers
- cereal, cookie, & cracker bags inside cardboard boxes
- milk crates
- bread trays
- caps & closures
- hard hats
- home insulation
- storage tanks for agricultural chemicals
- some household chemical containers
- mooring buoys
- covers for some electronics, furniture & appliances
- newspaper bags
- safety aprons
- pipes & sheets for industrial applications
- recycled plastic lumber (survey your local park benches)
- toilet seat covers
- manhole covers
- non-carbonated drinks
- 1/3 of all children's toys (it takes color well, so HDPE is the preferred plastic of the toy industry)
- playground components
- sheds & garden furniture
- water pipes
- gas mains
Given all of these applications, if I were stranded on a desert island and had to choose just one number of plastic, I think it would be HDPE...and then I would just rely on the tides to bring me the other plastics. ; )