Have you ever thought about how you’re going to recycle your cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and paper bags? Do you know where to go for ideas? You have many options, but you need to act quickly to make a difference. As a nation, we’re not taking care of our environment as well as we should be. We throw away literally millions of tons of packaging every year, yet still see pollution rising.
A paper recycling process called Canvassing is used to recycle paper and plastics. It works by separating all paper and plastics in one container and all paper bags (including those with plastics) in another container. Then, the soiled paper bags are burned or processed at a temperature that burns them, releasing their chemical components. Those are then recycled and sold as new. The chemicals released include heat, nitrogen, and chemicals that break down into useful materials such as cement and gravel. Those chemicals can also seep back into water supplies if the waterways aren’t cleaned periodically.
Some recycling programs separate plastics from paper products. This is known as segregated processing. By separating paper from plastics, paper recycling reduces the amount of plastic waste that would go to landfills and pollute the environment. A good example of this is the beverage industry’s frequent use of polythene bags that are recovered for resale. Those bags contain petroleum jelly, mineral spirits, and plastic that can release large amounts of toxic chemicals when they break down.
Recycling programs also help to conserve energy since paper and plastic are easier to recycle than metal. If all of those paper bags were instead recycled, the average paper bag would make just three to five miles for a single gallon of gasoline. Even with today’s high fuel prices, the recycling efforts continue to reduce our dependence on oil. Another way in which recycling efforts help the environment is that they reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The plastic is recyclable, but not so easy to reprocess. Recyclable PET bottles and cans take seven to ten years to process before they are usable. Recyclable Styrofoam takes approximately twice as long for processing as PET bottles and cans. In fact, most cartons do not come in proper trays and bags to be reprocessed and recycled.
There are two ways in which consumers can help reduce their impact on the environment by recycling their paper and cardboard products. First, they can buy reusable tote bags made from cotton or other natural fibers, instead of the paper ones. These bags are lighter, but not quite as eco-friendly as the paper ones. Second, consumers can purchase wheelbarrows that have handles made from recycled plastic. The handles are heavy enough to ensure that wheelchairs can move along the ground easily, using little energy.
If you want to help reduce your impact on the environment, you should also shop at the local grocery store for reusable bags. Some retailers have changeable plastic bag disposal bins where you can separate paper and plastic, leaving you with a single storage area for everything. Another option is curbside recycling. You can take your paper and cardboard items to a recycling service facility and they will wrap, stack, and store your items for you.
Many households and offices have recycling programs. The amount of plastic and paper they recycle is amazing. In a typical week at my office, we would recycle about six tons of plastics and paper. One company that recycles more than half of their packaging is Kraft Plastic. In a few years, they’ll have saved enough money to buy more boxes and have a lot more left over to give away to kids’ charities.