Tuesday, January 4, 2011


At the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists meeting tonight, Terry McKee gave a short program on plastics and plastics recycling that was very informative. I am going to share a few of the highlights here--if anyone notices a mistake, please post a correction!

A few of the major points from the talk:
  • Plastics are made from petroleum, natural gas and in some cases, renewable plants.
  • Plastics are highly prone to contamination with their contents, making plastics relatively difficult. Plastics cannot be recycled into the same plastic, but only to a lower grade of products--frequently the plastic lumber. Incineration of plastic releases a variety of toxic gases.
  • The number on the bottom of the plastic container indicates the type of plastic. Some are more easily recycled than others and have different uses and dangers.
  • All plastics have bad chemicals that can leach into food and drink contents, especially if the plastic container is reused or heated. Once you have used the plastic container, dispose of it unless it is designed for reuse.

I really work at using as little plastic as possible, but I do end up with plastic drink bottles that I have reused multiple times because I just hate to throw them away after one use. But Terry lectured me (again) during the talk, so I suppose I am going to have to be more careful in the future.

And remember the post on Green resolutions? Another reason NOT to use styrofoam to go containers is that the chemicals in the plastic is known to leach into food, especially when the food is hot or oily. Remember, To-Go Ware (or similar).

So look for products that use as little plastic packaging as possible. Do not reuse plastic containers if not made to be reused. Do not heat food in plastic or put hot food into plastic containers unless the packaging is specifically designed for that purpose.

Thanks, Terry, for an informative program.

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