Properly recycle your plastic bags to help environment

Though it may seem like recycling as a whole has been emphasized more greatly in recent years, recycling still has a long way to go. Plastic bags especially make up an important factor in these low overall recycling rates. To put this problem in perspective, according to a study conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only about 8.4% of plastic municipal solid waste (MSW), of which plastic bags compose the largest non-biodegradable portion, were recycled in 2017.

A possible reason for this issue may be that plastic bags are more complicated to recycle than any regular plastic bottle or aluminum soda can. Plastic bags, unlike these other materials, require specific processing machines to be properly handled, and cannot be freely mixed throughout other waste plastics. This is because, as Mark Carpenter, the assistant vice president of communications for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, describes, plastic bags often “break the recycling equipment used to sort material by jamming up the gears of the conveyor belt.” Such setbacks mean work must be halted multiple times per day, slowing the recycling process for all other types of waste.

But these issues are only the tip of the iceberg. Though it may not be obvious why a greater quantity of plastic bags are not recycled by communities all over the country, the effects of such neglect are crystal clear, and the environment has undoubtedly the most casualties. This is mostly due to two negative repercussions plastic bags have on the natural world: the use of natural resources and plastic bag pollution.

Pertaining to the use of natural resources, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization committed to benefitting the environment, “Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.” This ultimately means the drainage of non-sustainable materials to produce an item the world already has in extreme excess.

The issue of plastic bag pollution is a troubling one as well. Plastic bags have a way of affecting a great majority of the environment. As written by Beth Terry, an author focusing on the problems with plastic bag recycling, in the article titled “The Plastic Bag Problem,” polyethylene-based bags are “so lightweight and aerodynamic, they are easily picked up and carried by the wind.” Such a system easily spreads plastic bags throughout a wind range of locations, damaging the environment severely.

In addition, an incredible amount of plastic bags now exist in the planet’s oceans. By the year 2050, the Center for Biological Diversity notes that the quantity of plastic in the ocean, of which plastic bags are a prominent source, should outweigh all fish in the ocean, if current rates of pollution continue.

Recycling and plastic bag alternatives are the greatest ways to turn the tide against permanent destruction. For one reason, according to Plastic Bag Source, “[w]hen the plastics are recycled, new plastics are not used. This means that the process of producing the raw materials is cut off.” Recycling limits the usage of non-renewable materials.

In addition, plastic bags also do not clog the natural environment when recycled properly. They instead are delivered directly to a processing company such as Trex, where the used plastic can be reformed into a new item without contaminating the outside world in the process. It truly is a win-win-win situation, benefitting the recycler, society, and nature. With just a little bit of research and effort, an entire community can drastically improve the rates of plastic bag recycling, leading to guaranteed advantageous effects.