What Happens When You Recycle?
By Sharon Cacho
Plastic bottles are wonderful for a variety of reasons. They are lightweight, simple to carry, and durable. They are practical and easy to recycle. What really goes on during the recycling process? What is it all about? What are the benefits of recycling plastic water bottles?
For one advantage, recycling one pound of polyethylene terephthalate plastic (from soft drink and water bottles) saves 12,000 BTU's of heat energy. What this translates to is that using recycled materials to create a new product uses two-thirds less energy than raw materials do to make the same product. If you are looking at this on a worldwide scale, that is a lot of BTU's that we are saving for other, possibly more important, uses.
It is simple to recycle and most of us do it. How can we make it easier? For one thing, it helps to know which bottles to recycle. Those of us who recycle know that not all of them are accepted by the centers. To minimize your collections and aggravations, check the bottle. There are codes on the bottles numbered one through seven that indicate whether that particular bottle can be recycled. Numbers one and two are the most common and easiest to recycle. Almost all centers accept them. It also helps to know that most centers do not collect the bottle caps. They, too, are coded with a number. The items that cannot be recycled at your closest facility can sometimes be given to your curbside recycling program. You can call your city to find out what coded numbers they accept.
What happens after we drop them off at the local recycling center? There are several simple steps involved. First, the bottles are packed into a large bale and bundled for shipping. The bales contain between 6500 and 7200 bottles depending on the size. For example, are there more water bottles than soda bottles? What is the size of the individual bottle? The second step is to send them to a "reclaiming center" where the bales are broken down, and the bottles are shredded into tiny pieces. They are then washed, dried and melted. Next, they are formed into "beads" which are developed into various practical products such as carpets, clothing, and school lunch trays. They are also made into fun items like yo-yo's and kayaks!
Recycling helps our communities in a variety of ways. It is simple and convenient. In addition, it just makes good sense.
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