Environmental Justice

Why should we reduce plastic use?

According to the EPA, "Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." Read on to find out how our misuse of plastic is a social justice issue.

 

Lily from Thailand

This 12-year-old girl is already an i

 

The China Ban and its Cost

Do you know what is happening to your recycling?

Last year, China started restricting certain recyclabeles including mixed paper and most plastics. What this means for us is that it is much more expensive for the US to get rid of its recycling.

Because many towns, cities, and counties cannot afford to properly recycle, many are throwing it all away.

When organic waste sits in a landfill, it decomposes, emitting methane, which is bad for the climate. 

The recycling that we separate and clean out to be recycled in China is now being largely incinerated in industrial buildings that are typically surrounded by black and brown populations. One example is Chester, Pennsylvania where a group of citizens organized a community group called Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living in protest of the incinerators.

 

FLINT MICHIGAN IS STILL IN CRISIS

In case you never heard what happened in Flint, Michigan; they have been in a state of emergency since December 2015 when the water source was intentionally switched, causing corrosion. Lead from service lines mixed with drinking water.

 

Types of Plastic

Code (1)

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)

  • PETE plastics make up 96% of all plastic bottles and containers in the United States, yet only 25% of these products are recycled. 

Code (2)

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

  • HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic because it will not break under exposure to extreme heat or cold. According to the EPA, 12% of all HDPE products created are recycled in a year. 

Code (3)

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is one of the least recycled materials; generally less than 1% of PVC plastic is recycled each year. It has been called the “poison plastic”because it contains numerous toxins and is harmful to our health and the environment.

Code (4)

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Packaging and containers made from LDPE make up about 56% of all plastic waste, 75% of which comes from residential households. Fortunately, many recycling programs are evolving to handle these products. This means less LDPE will end up in landfills and negatively affect the environment!

Code (5)

Polypropylene (PP)

Only about 3% of polypropylene products are recycled in the US, but interestingly enough, 325 million pounds of non-bottle plastics were collected for recycling over a year. In other words, a lot of this plastic is created, but only a small fraction is actually recycled.

Code (6)

Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS)

  • Since polystyrene is lightweight and easy to form into plastic materials, it also breaks effortlessly, making it more harmful to the environment. Beaches all over the world are littered with pieces of polystyrene, endangering the health of marine animals. Polystyrene accounts for about 35% of US landfill materials.

Code (7)

Miscellaneous plastics (includes: polycarbonate, polylactide, acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon)

  • Many BPA products fall into this category, which means it's best to avoid them, especially for food products. It is not very easy to break down these plastics once they are created, unless they are exposed to high temperatures. This means they are nearly impossible to recycle.

 

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