Homes and businesses in the U.S. will produce over 205 million tons of garbage this year. More than 75 percent of it will be thrown away.
With your help, things can be different. More of our trash could be kept out of landfills and recycled into usable products.
Today, only 18.5 percent of our solid waste is recycled. That's not enough if we're to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's goal of reducing the nation's solid waste by 25 percent.
In thousands of cities and towns, recycling of newspapers and glass and metal containers is a way of life. Now many of those recycling programs are collecting plastic bottles as well. The soap and detergent industry uses both clear and colored recycled plastic in many of its containers. You can't see it, but most detergent and fabric softener bottles have a layer of plastic recycled from used milk jugs and detergent bottles. Some laundry and household cleaning product packages and many detergent scoops are made entirely from recycled soda bottles and other containers.
As more communities have included plastic bottles in their recycling programs, the soap and detergent industry has increased its use of recycled plastic. This effort has provided an important market for the plastic containers that consumers are recycling.
Cleaning product manufacturers continue to look for ways to use more recycled material while maintaining package integrity, safety and convenience. And manufacturers continue to depend on consumers for a reliable supply of recycled plastic.
Preparing plastic bottles for recycling ...
Recycling practices vary from community to community. Check with you local recycling coordinator for details about your program. Here are some guidelines for recycling laundry and household cleaning product bottles.
- Use up all of the product. If any remains, products designed for use with water should be disposed of by pouring down the drain.
- Rinse out well.
- Sort for recyclables. Check the code on the bottom of the bottle to identify the plastic type and then determine if it's accepted by your community. (See "Decoding the Codes".)
- Many programs do not accept caps and pump spray tops. When in doubt, leave it out!
- Leave labels on unless your community wants them removed. Most recyclers say they are OK.
- Crush or flatten when possible. This saves space in your recycling bin and on trucks picking up your recyclables.
Breakdown of the nation's garbage, in percentage. Total in 1994; 209 million tons
Source: EPA 1996
As for other materials ...
Laundry and cleaning product cartons contain a high percentage of recycled paperboard, but few communities currently include them in their collection programs. Check with your local coordinator for guidelines.
The steel cans used to dispense some cleaning products contain 25% recycled steel content. A growing number of communities accept empty steel aerosols as part of their recycling programs. Read the disposal instructions on the can and check with your local coordinator.
For proper recycling, plastic must be sorted by resin type. The number inside the triangular arrows on the bottom of a plastic container identifies the resin used to make the container. Some cleaning product bottles and most soda bottles carry Code 1; most laundry bottles and milk jugs, Code 2. Contact your local recycling coordinator for information on what's being collected in your community.