Plastics - The New Frontier

The plastics recycling industry is still in a relatively early stage of development. The expense of collecting and processing bulky, lightweight materials has challenged collectors, processors, and manufacturers. Contamination of material is another difficulty facing the plastics recycling industry. Clean material is essential. The good news is that progress, both locally and throughout the country, is being made at an encouraging pace.

It is the environmentally aware consumer/recycler who has become a driving force behind plastics recycling. Public demand for opportunities to recycle milk jugs, for instance, has encouraged the processors and manufacturers to invest in the technology necessary to effectively and economically recycle this material. Plastic jugs for milk and distilled water are the #1 no-deposit recycled plastic containers in Oregon.

Milk jugs are formed from a plastic called high density polyethelene (HDPE). Continued public demand is leading to collection of other HDPE containers like detergent and shampoo bottles, margarine tubs, fabric softener bottles, squeeze bottles and others. Salem area collectors will begin a curbside plastics pickup program very soon. Call the Mid-Valley Recyclers Association at 390-4000 for the latest details on activity in your area.

There are seven catagories of container plastic. The most common being accepted today are #2 (HDPE), #4, and #6. Look at the bottom of most plastic containers and, though it might be quite small, you can usually find a number.

As a project, see if you can collect an example of each code number 1-7. At the same time, we need to understand that not every type of plastic is currently being recycled and why this situation is changing across the United States.

The future of plastics recycling rests on a combination of public awareness and continued leadership by responsible manufacturers that use recycled material and make collection financially practical. Public participation and manufacturer investment in new and existing programs is necessary to continue the good progress we already have achieved.

For information on which of the seven types of plastics are currently being collected and the locations of dropoff sites, call Marion County at 588-5169.

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