Contribute about 7%
of our garbage

Plastics present some of the biggest dilemmas for householders. Plastics take 200 to 400 years or longer to decompose, are made from non-renewable petroleum and, in the case of some plastic foams, are believed to play a role in the destruction of the Earth’s ozone layer. Researchers form the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute counted as many as 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile at sea.

It’s hard to find a beach or shore anywhere that’s free of plastic debris. Tens of thousands of waterbirds, 100,000 or more marine mammals, and similar numbers of fish die each year by ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris.

Some cities and towns have plastic recycling programs. The plastics industry, through its “Council for Solid Waste Solutions” is working to establish a national system to recycle plastics, but the variety of plastic compounds poses a challenge. Only about 1% of the 25 million tons of plastic produced in 1990 was actually recycled. Given the difficulties, the best strategy for the householder is to avoid purchasing goods packaged or stored in plastic.

At present, PET plastic containers (transparent like soda bottles) bearing the recycle symbol surrounding the number 1 and the letters PETE beneath the symbol, and HDPE plastic containers (opaque like milk jugs) bearing the recycle symbol surrounding the number 2 and the letters HDPE beneath the symbol, are recyclable in some areas. Call 1-800-RECYCLE to find out what type of plastics can be recycled in your area.

“Degradable” plastics are made to break into small particles in sunlight or in the soil. While these products may lesson the danger of animal entanglement, they raise new concerns. Testing needs to occur to determine how safe the end products are and how long these products take to degrade. Many environmental scientists fear that the small particles may pose a greater hazard than the larger more unsightly plastic discards.

Reusable Goods