Monday, June 2, 2008

The Ecology Center and Recycling Plastics


The Ecology Center (EC) in Berkeley California was established in 1969 and launched a curbside recycling program way back in 1973. They still run it as a non-profit and the funds generated help with other community projects. This organization has supreme credibility in the field of recycling and we must agree with what they say: “The EC continues to be a place where people turn for reliable information about alternatives to harmful practices like pesticide overuse, for avenues to local policy makers and for connection with others concerned with environmental issues”.

The EC in 1995 decided to investigate adding plastics to the curbside recycling. Their comprehensive report found these interesting facts:

A link exists between the promotion of plastics recycling and an increase in production of virgin resin.

  • Plastic packaging production in recent years has outstripped plastic recycling by as much as a six to one-margin, and most of that production is from virgin materials.
  • Plastic packaging is not produced from petroleum waste, but from natural gas that could be used otherwise or not extracted at all.
  • Although all plastic containers bear the recyclable symbol, most are not recyclable.
  • Picking up plastics at curbside costs about $800 of taxpayer money or more per ton.
  • Much of the plastic collected for recycling is shipped overseas, and processed under, at best, dubious conditions.
  • Many of the products made from the plastic resin that is being recycled are not themselves recyclable, making the "recycling" only temporary diversion from landfill.

The Plastics Industries (who are great polluters) very much like promoting the idea of recyclable plastics yet it has no comparison to say, recycling paper. At best curbside plastic can be re-used once and then it goes to the landfill; or it is sent overseas “under, at best, dubious conditions”. We (myself included) have always thought that plastic was made from the leftovers of a barrel of crude oil after gasoline production, but this is not true. The answer is “pre-cycling” and here are EC’s suggestions:

a) using refillable containers; b) buying in bulk; c) selecting products that use little or no packaging, and d) choosing packaging materials that can be recycled and are made from recycled materials such as glass, metal, and paper. Holding companies accountable for the material they sell by legislatively demanding recycled content also has been shown to work on the city, state, and national levels.

Click here for an informative quiz with answers

Fran, David

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