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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, September 2, 2018

I’m quite sure most of you have heard about all the plastic garbage that is floating like islands in the oceans. Now, besides plastic bags and other such plastic waste finding its way there, they are even restricting the use of plastic straws. Latest we heard was now used eye contacts are also being looked at, if not properly disposed of. I guess every little bit adds to it.

Anyway, on that subject, I saw a couple of items on the TV which caught my attention concerning it. One concerned a major grocery store chain which has 2,800 stores. They are going to quit using plastic bags by 2025.

It seems out of the 4 million such bags made each year, only 13 percent of them are recycled. (Many stores, such as HEB and Walmart have a container near their door to recycle them in – making it quite handy to drop off used ones as you are taking your cloth bag in the store.

Although these floating islands are composed of more than just plastic bags and straws, it is estimated about 10 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. Much of it, about 90 percent, flows into it from 10 major rivers. And of course, it gets into these rivers from the streams that flow into them.

Unfortunately, plastic things get into these streams by the wind blowing plastic bags and other such plastic things into them, careless people dropping their plastic bottles – water, soft drink, etc. – in ditches, vacant lots and other places, where rain carries them into the streams.

Speaking of water bottles, we have found reusing a metal container for carrying drinking water works quite well and is less expensive than buying bottled water – of course, you can always also drink beer where the metal cans or bottles can also be recycled.

So much for the downside of plastic not being recycled. On the plus side, in a recent Resource Recycling newsletter, an article spoke of an environmental benefit of recycled plastic.

The article started with the statement, “Researchers have calculated substantial upsides from making products out of recycled PET, HDPE and PP instead of prime plastics.”

For example, research has shown using recycled plastic may make half of the greenhouse gas emissions of virgin plastic. This research looked at such emissions from “cradle to gate,” including collection, transportation, sorting and processing into flake or pellet.

It did not go into the manufacturing of finished products because of the many various types and processes used. And according to a spokesperson for the research, the lesser amount of greenhouse gas generated could be even higher, “in the range of 65 to 70 percent.”

She also mentioned the research is showing other benefits of using recycled plastic compared to using virgin material – including less energy usage, solid waste generation, water consumption, and in addition to lower greenhouse gas emissions, other atmospheric and waterborne emissions are lower as well.

Good reasons to continue to recycle your plastic item – in addition to that “feel good” sense it gives you knowing you are helping the environment and future generations. Not to mention, it helps keep that plastic waste out of the oceans.

Till next week, do have an enjoyable and safe Labor Day holiday.

--Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.