Successful recycling of plastic bottles depends on many groups pitching in to make it all work: consumers, our local communities, recyclers and manufacturers.
The cycle begins and ends with you!
You, the Consumer, are an essential link. Start the cycle by keeping recyclable bottles out of the trash. Encourage your local program to accept both clear and colored plastics. Then, help again at the end of the cycle by selecting packages that use recycled materials.
Collecting: Many communities have curbside collections. Others use drop-off centers run by the community or a retailer. Some communities have buy-back or redemption programs that pay for your recyclables.
Sorting: The key to effective recycling is in the sorting. Some communities ask consumers to sort at home to help cut the cost of operating the program. Others employ workers at recycling centers to sort through collected materials.
Processing: After they've been sorted, plastic containers are sent to reprocessing plants. Then they are ground, washed and processed into pellets. Now they are ready to be sold to container manufacturers and others who use recycled plastics in their products.
Manufacturing: At the manufacturing plant, pellets get their new recycled life. Some are recycled back into the same type of product, like another laundry detergent bottle; others are used in totally different products like carpets, tennis balls, plastic lumber and porch furniture.
Commingled Materials: Recyclables, all mixed together, such as plastic bottles with glass and metal containers. Commingled materials require sorting after collection.
HDPE High-density polyethylene: Colored or opaque plastic used in laundry product bottles and milk jugs. Its recycled life: more laundry product bottles, trash bins and base cups for plastic soft drink bottles.
MRF Materials Recovery Facility: A recycling operation that sorts materials by type, then cleans and compresses the recyclables before shipping to reprocessors.
Municipal Solid Waste: Trash from homes and businesses.
Paperboard: All cardboard. Comes in varying thicknesses: some flat, some corrugated.
PETE or PET Polyethylene terephthalate: Clear plastic used in some household cleaning product bottles, as well as in soda bottles. Its recycled life: new cleaning product bottles, carpets and insulation for winter jackets.
Pre-Consumer Waste: Scraps and trash created during the manufacturing process, such as paperboard trimmed away when making cartons.
Post-Consumer Waste: Used materials, such as empty detergent bottles and steel or aluminum cans, that go into the trash if they are not recycled.
Source Reduction: Reduction in weight and volume of packaging materials, such as has occurred with concentrated laundry products.
The Soap & Detergent Industry's Plastics Recycling Commitment:
Manufacturers of laundry and household cleaning products are working to promote plastics recycling by:
- Using post-consumer recycled plastic. Most detergent and fabric softener bottles contain 25 to 50 percent. For some laundry and cleaning product bottles, it's possible to use 100 percent!
- Using bottles made of HDPE and PET, the two most widely collected and recycled plastic resins.
- Working with communities to organize recycling programs.
- Supporting government efforts to create a recycling system that works.
- The soap and detergent industry is also following the EPA recommendation to "reduce, reuse, recycle" by concentrating products and offering refills. Source Reduction means stopping waste before it starts.
You Can Make a Difference!
Be an active recycler. Remember, more recycling means less solid waste for our landfills - and a better environment for all.
- Participate in your local recycling program.
- If there is no recycling program in your community, help start one.
- Encourage your community to collect both clear and colored plastic bottles.
- Follow your community's recycling instructions closely. Including unwanted items reduces the quality of what's being recycled.
- Teach your family proper recycling techniques.
- Buy packages made with recycled materials and help make recycling successful.
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