Plastics recycling continues to get a lot of attention in the mainstream media. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer is the latest to weigh in, with a feature today that looks at effort and payback of recycling. The story attempts to answer the common question, is the effort of recycling worth the trouble? Here's what reporter John Campanelli has to say about plastics recycling:
What it is: Water bottles, milk jugs, yogurt containers, etc. Market price per ton: $500 for water and soda bottles (code No. 1 plastic), $800 for milk cartons and other HDPE plastics (code No. 2). Benefits: Recycling a ton of plastic bottles saves almost four barrels of oil and 200 cubic feet of landfill space. Downsides: Before recycling, plastics need to be sorted into their different polymer groups (those tiny numbers inside triangles you see on the products). Plastic water and soda bottles are also rarely recycled into more bottles. Instead, they end up in other products, like carpeting or synthetic fabrics. How we are doing: Americans recycle about 24 percent of their plastic bottles. Recycling rates for other kinds of plastics are lower.Campanelli gives plastics recycling the equivalent of three-and-a-half stars (he actually uses little recycling bins instead). That's behind steel, paper and aluminum, but ahead of glass. His sources for plastics information include the American Chemistry Council and, for pricing data, the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. Plastics' light weight is a disadvantage when it comes to recycling. But the volume and homogeneity of products like milk jugs and soda bottles make recycling a natural. I've been getting a couple of calls per week from newspaper reporters doing stories on plastics recycling, so don't be surprised to see more coverage coming soon to a paper near you. For its efforts today, I'll give The Plain Dealer four little recycling bins.