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plastic bag

If modern day society leaves anything for future life-forms to remember us by, it will probably be the humble plastic bag!  Although plastic bags are today made from around 70% less plastic than those of 20 years ago, most are still composed of a plastic called polyethylene.  This plastic is does not degrade and takes hundreds of years to break down.

Can they be recycled?

Yes, most definitely and it’s something we should all make an effort to do.  Many of the large stores now offer recycling bins where you can put your old bags.

Many stores now don’t give out plastic bags anymore, or if they do they make a charge for them.  This has been common practice in various European countries for many years now, where it is the normal to have to take your own bags to the store to carry your purchases.  Many stores sell re-usable bags, or what is commonly known as ‘a bag for life.’  These are made from re-cycled materials such as canvas or material and often have a funky slogan on the outside to show that you are doing your bit for the planet.

All towns and cities have recycling centers where you can take plastic bags.  If you are unsure about where your local recycling center is, visit www.earth911.com and enter your zip code to find the nearest to you.

What are the possibilities for the recycled material?

When plastic bags are recycled they are broken down to a substance called composite lumber.  This substance is made up of a roughly 50:50 mix of both plastic bags and sawdust.  Composite lumber is then used to make a variety of products; from door and window frames and outdoor decking are just some possibilities.

When it comes to reusing old plastic bags there are many ways which you can do this; use them as trash can liners or poop scoops for animal waste.  Or you could donate them to animal shelters that will be glad of as many as you can give for the same purpose.  There are plenty of ways that you can give your plastic bags multiple outings without just tossing them in the trash.

But what about the resources used in the recycling process?

Of course, resources are used to recycle the bags, but this is offset in many ways.  Firstly, because the by-product is put to good use, and secondly, because placing plastic bags in landfill not only means the plastic hangs around for hundreds of years, but it also breaks down into small toxic pieces.  These then leech poison into the surrounding soil and even into the water system.  If every American were to make the effort to recycle or re-use their plastic bags, or better still, not use them at all, it would make a huge difference to the fate of the environment.

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