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Did you know “plastic” was a word that originally meant “pliable and easily shaped?” Honda Trimmer Line
Today plastic refers to a type of material, the polymer. Polymers are long chains of atoms arranged in repeating patterns. Synthetic or manmade polymers are made from carbon atoms provided by petroleum and other fossil fuels. The length and patterns of each polymer are what makes them strong, lightweight, and flexible, in essence, plastic.
In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt, invented the first synthetic polymer to reduce the demand for ivory used in billiards. The creation of different types of plastics expanded throughout the 1900s. However, the production of plastic didn’t really take off until World War II. During this time period, the need to preserve scarce resources is what drove the production of plastic to an all-time high.
According to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, plastic production increased by 300 percent during the war. In 1935, Wallace Carothers created nylon to replace silk, making it a big player in plastic production during this time. Nylon was used to make ropes, parachutes, body armor, helmets, and other items.
Fast forward to 2021 and plastic is everywhere—from our electronics to appliances to dishes to our vehicles. Plastic has shaped the way we function as a society. It is lighter weight than other materials, therefore, reducing transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s strong, durable, and relatively inexpensive to make.
However, we must keep in mind that plastic is a manmade material which means it can’t break down into anything Mother Nature can utilize. It takes approximately 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down into tiny pieces of plastic, but it never truly goes away.
What can we do? Now that’s simple. Buy plastic that we know can be reused or recycled or try to avoid it altogether.
In our community, we can recycle plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs curbside.
Why do we only recycle bottles, jugs, and tubs? Markets and equipment are why. These types of plastic containers have the highest resale value, are the easiest materials to process at a Material Recovery Facility or recycling facility, and have reliable and available markets (meaning a company will buy these in large quantities to be made into new items).
This is due partially to their uniform shape, streamlining of modern technology, and the fact that these materials have been recycled for a longer period of time, therefore, making equipment more efficient and widely available.
Not sure if an item can be recycled? Give us a call and we’ll help you determine the best disposal solution, (715) 346-6297.
Amanda Haffele is the solid waste director for Portage County
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