Conservation Corner

Recycling our disposable plastics

Pauline Lee

Have you ever considered how our daily lives revolve around disposable plastics? Each year, 400 million tons of plastic is produced. Of this quantity, 40% is for single-use applications such as packaging in the form of bottles, containers, bags and wraps. Although such packages allow us easy access to individual contents, convenient sizes and useful storage possibilities, these throwaway plastic packages create environmental pollution and waste raw materials. Plastics are made by energy-intensive chemical processes that convert petrochemicals into versatile stable products. Estimates indicate that recycling one ton of plastics saves 22 cubic meters of landfill space and 80 to 90 percent of the energy needed to make virgin plastics.

Drinks bottles are one of the most common types of plastic waste. Some 480 billion plastic bottles were sold globally in 2016 – that’s a million bottles per minute. These bottles and all plastic containers bearing the code symbols 1-7 can be recycled. The bottles can be recycled into durable backyard decks, playground equipment, new bottles, carpeting and soft comfortable fabric for clothing or upholstery. Bottle caps typically are recycled into auto parts, bike racks, storage bins, shipping pallets, tough kitchen bowls and cutting boards, car battery cases, toothbrushes and more. Be sure your recycled containers are clean. Take special note that Sun Lakes Posse recycler CAN’T process plastic bottles with screwed on caps, while Sun Lakes Disposal wants the caps to remain ON your bottles. You can improve recycling efficiency by preparing your bottles in the proper way for each recycler.

Our recyclers at Sun Lakes Posse and Sun Lakes Disposal cannot handle plastic bags/wraps/film. Instead, DO recycle these items at all our grocery stores, home improvement stores, Walmart, Target, etc. Their collection bins for recycling plastics are usually in the storefront, close to the main entrance. Plastic bags, dry cleaning film, wraps from paper towels or bathroom tissue, newspaper bags, bubble wrap and more can be recycled into new products, such as backyard decking, fences, playground equipment, pipes, crates, pallets, containers and even new plastic bags. Please recycle only clean, dry plastic bags and film. Remove paper labels and any other items from bags. Be aware that the following packaging material CANNOT be recycled: Degradable/compostable bags or film packaging, pre-washed salad mix bags, frozen food bags, candy bar wrappers, chip bags and six-pack rings. You can learn more at

Knowing how and what to recycle can be confusing! How2Recycle has developed a national harmonized labeling system with clear instructions on how to recycle each item. In 2014, Americans generated an estimated $730 million in recycled plastic bottles (over three billion pounds) by recycling about 30% of used bottles and nearly 1.2 billion pounds of bags/wraps from grocery store bins. Let’s build on this momentum by increasing our plastics recycling to support local recycling jobs and benefit from the reduction in pollution and increase in resources.