Do Your Part

9 12 2011

My focus is spreading the knowledge about bottle caps and their recycling process, but while doing this research, I found some other interesting facts about recycling that surprised me.

My mom always told me to rinse out the milk jug, my soda bottle, and other recyclable things, but I thought it was just so our house did not get ants and the little bits of leftovers in the bottles did not mold.

According to Thinkgreen.com as well as many other sites, I found that even just one item that still has waste in it can pollute the entire batch of recyclables (each batch being thousands of pounds), and is taken to the landfill not recycled.

Along with recycling properly, I try and do my part by reducing what I use.  One and a half million barrels of oil are used to make a years supply of waterbottles, and all this plastic is hurting our environment.  Rather than decomposing, plastic goes through photo degradation which breaks the plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces but never is really gone.  Even the process of photo degradation takes hundreds of years. The plastic is hurting the Earth’s animals in the water, on land and in air.  The picture below is of a baby albatross bird that was fed plastic mistaken for food by its parents. In its decomposing body, you can see that the plastic is still there, and hasn’t changed from its original forms in the slightest.

The average recycling rate that is remaining pretty steady throughout the years is 27%.  This resulted in 2,480,000 tons of plastic being thrown away in 2008 (recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency). Sixty million single-use drink containers were purchased in 2006, with 3 out of every 4 being thrown away right after the beverage was consumed.

Plastic bottles are the most common source of pollution found on the beaches and every square mile of water is said to have 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it. (Reuseit.com). Animals are dying painful deaths due to what they ingest.

So why not use reusable water bottles? There is less waste created, there are no worries about which recycling centers take the caps, and considering the US spent $100 billion on bottled water in 2006 (Oneworld.net), it would save everyone a lot of money!

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Plethora of Plastics

7 12 2011

Each type of plastic is marked with a number inside of a triangular shape made of arrows.  This number is the resin identification code (RIC).  These numbers range from 1-7 and all represent different types of plastics, with different melting points.

Bottle caps generally have an RIC of 5.  Not every recycling center has the capabilities to recycle this type of plastic, but the centers that do take ths plastic are growing in numbers. This plastic is called Polypropylene and is also used to make things like yogurt containers, syrup bottles, catsup bottles, some straws, and prescription medicine bottles as shown in the picture below.

Not only can the mixture of bottle caps and their bottles be a danger to the workers and the machines, but also, a very small amount of the wrong plastic can contaminate an entire batch of plastic being recycled. To find out which recycling centers nearby take the types of plastics you are in need of recycling, check earth911.com.  Here you can type in the area in which you live, as well as the types of things you are looking to recycle.  It brings up a list of the locations, with links to each center.

For those of you living in and around Orange County, CA, the closest places to bring plastic bottle caps would be the Aveda Experience Centers in Costa Mesa, Brea and Mission Viejo, Domestic Metals and Plastics in Long Beach, and Cactus Recycling Inc. in Paramount, CA.





The Issue

6 12 2011

One of the biggest issues, is that the right answer when referring to what one should do with their bottle caps, is slightly unclear, even within the waste management companies.  Credible sources need to publish more information about the process and what the correct thing to do is, so people can make a change. Bottle caps and the bottle itself are made of two different plastics. Bottle caps are labeled with a 5 (the resin identification code), while the bottles are labeled usually 1 or 2.  Recycling centers only take certain resin identification coded plastics, depending on the location.  Even if a recycling center nearby takes plastics labeled 1, 2, and 5, they do not all get recycled together.  The higher the number, the higher melting point the plastic has.  If the caps and bottles were to all be recycled together, the bottle caps would shatter rather than melt due to the decreased heat.  These shatters cause a problem as they jam the machines that need to be running all the time to take care of the waste humans create.  While melting the bottles, pressure is created due to the heat and the rest of the recycling process.  This pressure can be dangerous as caps can pop off the bottle and injure workers at the recycling centers.

Because machines can get jammed and workers can get injured, bottles that still have the caps screwed on are most times thrown away, and headed towards the dump. This causes problems as our landfills are filling up and plastic does not decompose well.

As a little background information, I have added this video that goes through the process of recycling plastic.

To verify my information, I interviewed Malia Walker, a worker in the customer service department of Waste Management of Orange County.  She confirmed my research that “it is better to keep the caps off the bottles because it is better for the process of the bottles getting smashed down”.  I always wondered what I should do with the cap after I take it off, and Malia Walker said that it is best to also place these in the recycle bin.  As stated earlier, I wanted to collect bottle caps to raise money for breast cancer, but between Malia and snopes.com (a rumor has it site), it seems as though there is no where to collect money to be donate in exchange for the bottle caps.





Cap Collecting

6 12 2011

What to throw away, what to recycle, and how to go about these processes can sometimes be controversial, even when talking to people in the recycling business.  Through research on the topic, I have discovered that leaving the caps screwed onto the bottles takes the bottles out of the recycling process, and straight to landfills.

What I am asking, is for everyone to be more informed about this topic so our recycling efforts do not go to waste.  To begin this process, I would like to start small with the Chapman University community.  I am requesting Jerry Price, the Dean of Students, to help me in this effort by printing signs for each recycling bin to inform the students that bottle caps need to be taken off, but may still be thrown in with the recycle bin.  I feel as though Dean Price would help me out with my efforts because he is very supportive of the student body and cares very much about meeting the needs of Chapman’s students.  Our campus has a goal to be as sustainable as it can be, so why not make cap removal a habit?

I am writing this blog to inform my readers about the importance of recycling and the correct way to do so.  I originally hoped to collect bottle caps and turn them in for money to be donated towards breast cancer research, but it turns out there are not facilities that do this.  Instead, I will tell my readers about the causes they can donate these caps to, and the locations that accept plastic bottle caps.