Plastic has changed our lives. It is very difficult to avoid plastic due to its properties as cheap and durable material. Industries such as construction, packaging, medicine, automotive, aviation, entertainment, and many others are using plastic as raw material for various products. Indeed, our society today without plastic would look very different. What are 7 types of plastic and how to go about it?
Two sided sword
There is no way to avoid plastic completely and there is no need in doing that (for instance in medicine industry or automotive). Plastic properties such as soft, transparent, flexible, or biodegradable, heat and electricity resistant are irreplaceable in technology development, for instance, engineering tissues, prosthetics, 3d printing etc.
However, many plastic types contain toxic substances and are dangerous for human health and the environment. Plastic does not biodegrade and some are not recyclable. Tremendous plastic waste amounts are suffocating many cities and environmental places around the world. Addressing the issue of single-use plastic and overwhelming waste are in the focus of many governments and municipalities.
The seven types
As a conscious consumer, it is important to understand plastic types and how to deal with it. There are 7 common types of plastics. Usually, you can see it on the plastic product or package. PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS, other. There are good and bad uses of each plastic-type. There are safe plastic and plastic to avoid. Here is the table where plastic types are described and evaluated.
As we see in the table, the industrial sector is producing plastic in ever growing quantities thus dealing with plastic will be an issue for many years to come.
Most of us have plastic items in our household. Using principles of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot
- some plastic can be refused (single-use completely and plastic packaging significantly),
- most plastic can be reduced,
- almost all can be reused,
- less recycled
- almost no plastic biodegrades (science is progressing even in this area and scientists have found bacteria that can eat some types of plastic).
Before we throw away
The way of conscious customer suggests the following steps in order to help recycle plastic and or avoid it.
- Get information about what type of plastic waste is collected and recycled in the region. In our municipality, all types of plastic are accepted for recycling.
- How waste should be separated? Sorting of the PET, HDPE and LDPE materials are most convenient in our neighborhood.
- To make recycling process of plastic possible and more convenient for companies it is important to empty the plastic packaging before throwing it out. Removing any nonplastic residue and components from packaging are important steps as well.
- Depose plastic items separately from the packaging.
- Avoid cosmetics and home-care products that contain microplastics (plastic debris than is less than 5 millimeters in length).
- What brands are using design for recycling for their products? Use their products.
- Buy products from recycled material.
- Avoid nonrecyclable products like black and opaque packaging, multi-material products.
- Remove excess air from plastic bottles and keep the caps attached.
- Packages containing toxic substances should not be recycled.
Even though the industry is using and will be using plastic for years (or forever) we as a conscious consumer can minimize household plastic and avoid single-use plastic in particular.
It is your health
If it is not possible to avoid plastic completely – do use only plastic with identification numbers 2 (HDPE) and 5 (PP). With other types of plastic: DO NOT heat it, or use in microwave stoves, or boil, or put into a washing machine. Why? All other plastic emits bisphenol A (BPA). As an artificial estrogen, it affects the development of fetuses of both sexes, slows down the development of the hormonal system, promotes breast and prostate tumors.
The largest landfill in the world
Besides health issues, there is an environmental threat. Did you know that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a place called North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, the area is the oceanic desert where millions of tons of plastic trash are. It is the largest landfill in the world. Scientists estimate the size of it to be as large as the area of two states of Texas. (source: LA times).
About 10% of annually produced plastic ends up in the Oceans. Plastic does not biodegrade, some plastic photo degrades and creates small bits of plastic which are called “mermaid tears” or microplastic. It kills sea life and animals, as well as, comes back to humans by entering back into the food chain (through fish). What is more striking is that 80% of Ocean trash originates on the land which means we are those who create it.
Can we reduce?
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