Going Green? Check those labels

recycling logo for cardinal disposal

When you buy items, do you ever check the labels to see how they could affect you or the environment? “Going green” has swept the world, bringing changes to how people view and use everyday products – from food packaging to other consumer items. The idea is to make sure the everything you use can have less impact on the environment and human health — and can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Some items now include labels showing how they can be recycled. One example is plastic materials. The use of arrows as symbols on plastic packaging and products does not mean that the product is easily recyclable. Within each chasing arrows triangle, there is a number, usually from 1 to 7. The number indicates the type of plastic used and if the product is re-usable or recyclable.  Plastic recycling symbols

A plastic container with 1 inside the chasing arrows triangle is made of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), found in water bottles and most packaging. This packaging is for single use applications as repeated use can cause the spread of harmful bacteria. PET plastic is recyclable.

Another popular material is HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) with a number 2 inside the chasing arrow triangle. HDPE plastic is for milk jugs, shampoo, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. It is the most commonly recycled material and one of the safest forms of plastic.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) with #3 is a soft plastic material used for making clear food packaging, children’s toys, blister packaging and sheathing materials. It is not recyclable and should not be re-used.

Number 4 is inside LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene), which is found in shrink wraps, garment bags, and even plastic bags for bread, as well as some household items. Less toxic than other plastics, LDPE is not usually recycled.

Number 5 is PP (Polypropylene), a plastic that is lightweight but tough. It is usually used for the packaging of cereals and to keep some food products fresh. PP is recyclable and recycled PP is used for making household products. PS (Polystyrene) has #6. It is lightweight and flexible plastic used for many purposes, such as styrofoam drinking cups, take-out food containers, foam packaging and shipping boxes. It breaks up easily and said to release a possible human carcinogen. PS is not recyclable and makes up about one-third of landfill material.

Other plastic materials fall under #7 and these include the new materials like BPA and Polycarbonate (PC), used for making sippy cups, water cooler bottles, and even car parts. New bio-based plastics also fall under this category. The plastics in this category are not for re-use unless they are “compostable.”


The Benefits of Recycling

recycling logo with hand image

Garbage or trash is everyday items that we use, then throw away. These include items such as packaging, newspapers, food craps, furniture, plastic bags, batteries, and all other things that we no longer need. As the population grows, the volume of garbage also grows. In its report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that in 2012, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash; recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of garbage, or nearly a 35% recycling rate. But the volume of garbage is rising and this can harm the environment and put our health at risk.

The EPA recommends several practices to reduce the amount of garbage and properly dispose of it. One is source reduction or waste prevention, which involves designing produces to reduce the amount of waste that will be thrown away, and also to make the resulting waste less toxic. This is being adopted by some companies who try to come up with product packaging that’s less toxic, re-usable or made of materials that are biodegradable.

The EPA also recommends composting, which involves collecting organic waste such as food scraps, dried plants and garden trimmings, then storing these until they become compost which can be used as fertilizer.

But another effective method is recycling, which is the recovery of useful materials such as paper, glass, plastic, and metals from trash to make new products. Recycling and composting prevented 86.6 million tons of material from being disposed of in 2012, according to EPA.

• Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators;
• Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals;
• Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials;
• Saves energy;
• Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change;
• Helps sustain the environment for future generations;
• Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States.
Source: EPA

Recycling reduces the greenhouse gases emission which contributes to global warming. Global warming can impact our health, forests, wildlife and coastal areas. It can affect even our sources of food. With recycling, the release of carbon dioxide into the air is reduced. The EPA estimated that recycling helped prevent the release of 168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air in 2012, which is like taking 33 million cars off the road for a year – a great way to reduce pollution.

An effective recycling system is definitely a big factor in making sure that we get all the benefits from this environment-friendly method.