When I look around me I see recycling. It is everywhere, especially in Portland. It seems we are figuring out ways to recycle everything these days.  We are putting an enormous amount to of energy into recycling. My question is, is it worth it?

Glass, metal, and paper recycling is, for the most part, straightforward. When it comes to plastics is it really a great idea? In the United States we use a tremendous amount of plastic in a gargantuan amount of different products. Is it possible to recycle them all?

The chief problem lies in plastic’s complexity. There are as many types of plastic as there are uses for them. Since each type can only be recycled with its own kind, plastics need to be carefully sorted before they can be processed. In the United States recycling only saved 8% of energy over manufacturing new plastics.

In regards to recycling, it is usually a better alternative then frivolous wasting in landfills.  The environmental protection agency of the United States for example states:

“It takes two-thirds less energy to make products from recycled plastic than from virgin plastic. By the last official measure in 2005, Americans recycle an estimated 32 percent of their total waste, which averages nearly a ton per person per year, around a third of which is plastic. But not all plastic can be recycled, and only about 6.8 percent of the total plastic used in the U.S. actually gets recycled.” (EPA)

-Jeff Grimberg


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    egietz said,

    Here’s the thing Jeff, you’re on the right track. I think it’s ridiculous how different each plastic really is. Just today, I walked by a recycle container, and it said I could recycle my plastic bottle but no plastic bags. So what am I supposed to do with my plastic bags? Throw them away so they end up in the land fill? There isn’t really a great way of knowing what truly is a recyclable plastic and what isn’t. I think their should almost be a guide to which plastics to actually recycle.

    -Eric Gietzen

  2. 2

    AnneMarie said,

    It used to be that only products with the number one and two could be recycled. Now a days all numbers can be recycled with the exception of 7 or if says “other”. The number 3 which is PVC should be avoided like vinyl shower curtains. Plastic bags go to the grocery stores to be recycled. It should be easy enough once you get the hang of it. But if there’s a doubt, you can always contact the city recycling center or nearest recycling drop off. I can’t for some reason attach links on responses! Google which types of plastics can be recycled and it should pop up on Also will show you nearby recycling centers. Hope that helps!

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