What's better for the environment, using less resin to make a PET bottle, or using more material but incorporating recycled plastic into the container? This is one of those questions where the answer depends on your priorities. Today scienceline.org, a student-run webzine published by the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University, takes a stab at the question. The statistics that the students cite are interesting, and they come up with what appears to be a pretty thoughtful conclusion. First, it's nice to see that they actually look at materials pricing, which is an important consideration for plastics processors and their customers. They also consider landfill tipping costs, since there is a hidden cost to handle all of the PET bottles that aren't recycled, too. The conclusion: although landfilling used PET bottles is cheaper in the short run, it is wasteful (a half a billion dollars worth of PET bottles were sent to landfills in 2005, acccording to the Container Recycling Institute), especially with virgin resin prices rising. So they acknowledge that using less virgin resin, by making lighter bottles, is a priority, as well as making an effort to use recycled material, too.
Recycled vs. virgin
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