Recycling Household Plastic Makes a Difference

Written By:
WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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Prairie Village, KS—A recent life cycle inventory (LCI) study has shown that recycling polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), two leading household and beverage plastics, can make a tremendous difference. The research, performed by Franklin Associates, an assessment firm based here, shows that recycling can lead to considerable “reductions in energy consumption, solid waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Although it has long been a common belief that recycling high-volume consumer plastic is an economically and ecologically smart move, this study is the first to support the theory. The results prove that recycled HDPE resin products, such as milk jugs and detergent bottles, and PET resin products, such as soft drink and water bottles, consume between 38–88% less energy during production than virgin resins. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, recycled HDPE and PET production produces 35–78% fewer gases than its counterparts. Results also show that although solid waste numbers for recycled resins are higher than those of virgin plastics, the figures are tainted because the topline recycled resins often consist of co-mingled contaminants.

The study concludes that PET and HDPE recycling have a positive environmental impact on production, use and disposal practices. Retailers using recycled plastic can save considerable amounts of energy while emitting less greenhouse gases. According to Bob Lilienfield, editor of The ULS Report (www.use-less.stuff.com), “the best way to reinforce the value of plastics recycling is for consumers to experience and use products made from recycled resins. Businesses should highlight this use on their products and packaging.”
 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2010 (published ahead of print on June 28, 2010)