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A World Of Plastic-Type 1

My first in depth study will be on the most widely used plastic, polyethylene terephthalate. Polyethylene terephthalate is more commonly known as PETE/PET or that water/soda bottle you are drinking from right now. If you are not a bottled beverage person, the chances that you have used something made from PETE/PET today are extremely high. I would bet on it.

PETE/PET are very tough and shatterproof.  It provides a barrier to oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide which makes it ideal for keeping soda carbonated, your juices fresh and your condiments tidy. It is used for everything from your kicthen to your medicine cabinet. Peanut butter to mouthwash. Salad dressing to aspirin. Microwavable foods to beer. (Yes, just because you can’t see it does not mean it’s not there. Many cans are lined with plastic for sealing and freshness.)

This amazing plastic is also highly regarded in the recycling plant. These plastics are the easiest to recycle and have created quite the list of new products including bean bags, ropes, car bumpers, polar fleece and carpet, as well as fiberfill for coats, sleeping bags and life jackets. Very impressive.

Although PETE/PET sound like outstanding members of the community they come with their share of problems. Biggest one being that only about 1% of these bottles are actually being recycled worldwide. Well over 50 billion gallons of water is being sold in plastic bottles every year. Then we have milk, soda, juice, mustard… You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that trillions of plastic bottles are not being recycled. Where are they now? Oh, found some!

Another big problem is the caps. This cap is a big reason why lots of people don’t recycle. They say it is just too confusing and too much trouble. Do I take the cap off? Do I put the cap in another bin? It’s plastic too, why can’t it just go with the rest? The little safety seal stays on the bottle why can’t the cap? Why? Why? Why does it have to be so hard. Let’s try to figure it out.

It is really weird because the cap is made from the same PETE/PET, just thicker, have color added and may have some foreign particles that would go noticed in a clear bottle. Due to the thickness and color, they must be melted at a higher heat. There are also stories of the caps shooting off the bottles in the press. Employees have been losing eyes, don’t you know. But the biggest reason is money… The thick particle filled cap is of a lower grade and it would ruin the vat, so to speak. Hence any bottle found in the recycling bin with a lid will be thrown away rather than recycled. I’m hoping that this problem will be solved in the very near future. Aveda has a program for caps called “Be The Change” but at this point it is to capacity. Find other programs at “Caps Can Do”.

Last but not least is the health problems that PETE/PET can cause. “PET was found to break down over time and leach into the beverage when the bottles were reused. The toxin DEHA also appeared in the water sample from reused water bottles. DEHA has been shown to cause liver problems, other possible reproductive difficulties, and is suspected to cause cancer” say the folks at MedicineNet.com. There have been other studies done on microwavable trays. They “are only to be used one time and not to store or prepare foods other than those for which they are intended.” They leave us with a tip ” it’s best to recycle these bottles and trays without reusing them.” Ok, thank you! Should I really be using them at all?

Type 1 plastic is not going anywhere, anytime, whether it is recycled or not. Folks need more information on how and why we need to recycle this beautiful monster. And making the disposal of it as convenient as having it in the first place. Teaching our children is key. After all, it’s their future we are destroying.

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