Organics and Recycling

Published: 24 May 2005
Category: Recycling

People who buy organic foods tend to be more environmentally aware. They want to be sure they are helping the environment and not harming it. This story from the Toronto Star points out the whole problem with trying to “recycle” plastic. We think we are doing a good thing by dropping our plastic bottles in a recycle bin, but are they actually being recycled?

“The recycling symbol — three arrows chasing each other around a circle — suggests a closed loop. The ideal is that cast-offs are processed over and over, eliminating much of the environmental damage and energy consumption involved in making virgin material.”

That works for glass, steel and aluminum, and somewhat for paper. But not so well for most plastics. …

“Recycling does extend their life. But it’s a complicated business.” …

Even if perfectly sorted, plastic bottles can rarely be reformed back into their original form. Many simply degrade. Even when it’s technically possible — for example, new pop and water bottles can be made from old — the melting temperature isn’t high enough to kill bacteria, so government regulators prohibit it.

Plastic it turns out is not actually re-cycled as much as it is “down-cycled.” It all eventually ends in landfills…

“The energy and money expended to make and then ‘down-cycle’ bottles and bags that are used for only a few minutes is absurd,” he says.

Toronto Environmental Alliance, Gord Perks says, “If companies had to manage the materials themselves, they’d stop using them for packaging.”

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