Why Recycled is Better: Products Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
A staggering 76 million pounds of plastic packaging is created in the US every day. The ultimate goal is to eliminate plastic altogether, so how sustainable is it to purchase reusable solutions made from recycled plastic bottles? Learn how and why recycled fabric can be an eco-friendly alternative when trying to reduce waste—especially single-use plastic waste.
Why Repurpose Discarded Plastic?
Every piece of plastic ever produced still exists. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans (equal to one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into our oceans every minute). If you’re reading this, you are probably already mindful of reducing single-use plastic. Awareness is certainly growing, but there’s still a staggering amount of plastic in the waste stream. Repurposing that plastic into reusable products can be one important solution for all that plastic waste.
Why Focus on PET #1 Plastic?
PET #1 plastic (polyethylene terephthalate) is a very common plastic used for food and beverages. You’ll see it all over the grocery store holding liquid soap, condiments, nut butters, juices and water. PET #1 is generally considered “safe” and does not contain BPA. This type of plastic is usually clear and lightweight, and only intended for single-use (herein lies the problem).
PET #1 is the most commonly recycled plastic. It is accepted in recycling facilities, and is easy to clean, process and recycle. However, according to studies cited in a recent lawsuit by the Sierra Club, the US recycling system is unable to recycle even one quarter of recyclable bottles (and about 28% of that is lost to processing or contamination and ends up in landfills). All that considered, PET #1 is still incredibly abundant, and until we stop using single-use plastic bottles there will be literally tons of it available to repurpose.
Is it Really Sustainable to Recycle Plastic Bottles into New Products?
When a reusable bag, cutlery case or ice pack is made from plastic bottles, the bottles are not actually being recycled, but are “repurposed” into something new—essentially finding a new life for the discarded material. The majority of fabric made from plastic (polyester, fleece and spandex) is made from brand new plastic that requires vast resources. Repurposing plastic extends the value of the initial material and reduces new resources needed for new products. Recycling facilities will continue to collect recyclables if there is a market for them, so repurposed goods are also helping create value for recyclables.
A Step in the Right Direction
Recycled plastic fabric is not going to solve our global waste crisis. It’s considered a non-renewable resource and does eventually break down in the environment. But, recycled plastic bottle fabric has the benefit of being lightweight, durable, easy to clean and quick drying—great qualities for long-lasting reusables which have the added benefit of staying out of landfill longer.
Repurposing recycled plastic otherwise headed to a landfill or an incinerator is a step in the right direction. Hopefully someday we won’t have any single-use plastic, and thus no plastic in the recycling stream, but until then fabric made from recycled plastic bottles is becoming a real option for people looking to shift their consumption to more eco-friendly products.