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Volume III
January 20, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Recycling: Plastics Be-Gone

By Patty Liston

Being able to help reduce the contents in our growing land-fills is something I am trying to work on. Unfortunately, the town that I live in does not have recycling (!), so finding bins for old magazine, newspapers, glass and plastics is a bit tricky.

I have come to the conclusion that recycling is not a practice that most of us understand. What if we just dump everything into our trash cans and let our land-fills do the rest. Isn't everything eventually, biodegradable? According to, the biodegradable time-table for most common house-hold items is the following:

Cotton rags -- 1 to 5 months
Paper -- 2 to 5 months
Rope -- 3-14 months
Orange peels -- 6 months
Wool socks -- 1 to 5 years
Cigarette butts -- 1 to 12 years
Plastic coated paper milk cartons -- 5 years
Leather shoes -- 25 to 40 years
Nylon fabric -- 30 to 40 years
Tin cans -- 50 to 100 years
Aluminum cans -- 80 to 100 years
Plastic 6-pack holder rings -- 450 years
Glass bottles -- 1 million years
Plastic bottles -- Forever

The last statistics left me gasping. Glass? A MILLION YEARS? And not to be out-done; plastic bottles, FOREVER!

According to, a beautiful web-site that discusses health, smart food, energy efficiency and more, most plastics are recyclable. Understanding the codes that are printed on the plastic will indicate which drop off facilities will accept your plastics.

"On every plastic product there is a Plastic Identification code - a triangle with the number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 inside it. Most recycling facilities will accept plastics with codes 1 or 2 which commonly come in the form of beverage bottles and containers used for milk, juice, and body-care products".

The following table from "Green Living for Dummies", (their name, not mine),will not only help identify the kind of plastic we have, but just as importantly, educate each one of us about the "new life" this plastics receive once they have been recycled. For me, knowing that old adage, "Use it up. Wear it Out. Make it do. Or do without", is still relevant in this 21st century era of recycling, is reassuring.

Plastic Identification Code
Type of Plastic
Common Products
Possibilities for Recycling
PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) Soft drink, juice, and toiletry bottles T-shirt material and carpets
HDPE (high-density polyethylene) Milk jugs, detergent or bleach bottles Detergent bottles, binders, and fencing
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Shampoo and mineral water bottles, house siding and piping New house siding, piping, and other building materials
LDPE (low-density polyethylene) Grocery, garbage, and bread bags New bags
PP (polypropylene) Margarine and dairy tubs Car parts and milk crates
PS (polystyrene) Meat trays, coffee cups, packaging DVD cases and CD trays
Other plastics Ketchup bottles, other Park and picnic benches

"Green Living for Dummies" goes on to suggest that we contact our local service or drop-off facility and ask which plastics they will take. Using only the numbers that the providers dictate may encourage us to purchase only those plastics with the required numbers.

It's a start!

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