There’s a great future in plastics
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you – just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: ‘Plastics.’
Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
— The Graduate (1967)
And plastics do indeed have a great future, if by great you mean “very long lasting”. This table lists life span for various items of litter ranging from ‘approximately 1 million years’ for glass bottles to only 450 years for the plastic collars for a six pack. There are many other commonly discarded items that aren’t listed on the table and for some, like polystyrene, I have been unable to find a confirmed estimate for the lifespan of this product.
The onion points out in its inimitable way that even if you only throw out a plastic bottle very rarely the toll adds up.
Depending on where you live your muncipal recycling programs probably take some but not all of your plastics. In NYC the city program is rather limited and so I’ve been trying to find ways of increasing the amount of plastic that I divert from the waste stream. Here are a few options:
- Polystyrene can be recycled at various drop off and mail back locations
- The incredibly irritating packing peanuts and bubble wrap can be brought to any UPS Store where they will reuse them
- My branch of whole foods offers recycling of #5 plastics and plastic shopping bags.
- Preserve will take your old yoghurt containers and brita filters which they recycle into their toothbrushes.
- Plastic bottle caps are recycled through this Aveda program
If you have other tips on where to give plastics a new life please post them in the comments section.