One green (PET, HDPE,PVC, LDPE, PP) bottle standing on the wall

(Edit 19th March 2013) I have edited a link on plastic types as my previous link pointed to a defunct website, so it’s possible some references may not make sense.

I know I’ve posted about this before but the issue of recycling has been highlighted to me again as I try to infuse my hippy doctrine on my unsuspecting family in Yorkshire.

After spending a couple of hours rearranging the shed, sorting through a couple of week’s worth of items for recycling and checking the local council’s website for information on where to go and what can be recycled, I set off with my first boot load of tin cans, glass, paper and plastic; all of which can be recycled at the local facility according to the North Yorkshire County Councils web site.

True enough, tin cans, glass and paper could all be recycled, but I failed to find the plastic recycle bin; so they all went in the general rubbish wheelie bin that I found close by.

It then struck me that the reason that they may not have a plastic recycling facility is that it probably costs too much to separate the many different types of plastic that are used in manufacturing; why do we have to have so many?

Checking out the lifewithoutplastic website and reading what the various plastics are used for and indeed the dangerous chemicals that some plastics contain, it seems that the number of plastic variations could quite easily be reduced e.g. PET and HDPE have very similar uses, so why manufacture both? Why can’t an industry standard be decided upon, making recycling easier and no doubt lower the risk to humans with regard to leaching chemicals; with a little bit of new technology thrown in for good measure I’m sure they could reduce the risk to human health.

Of course this is a very simplistic view to take and the cost of making the changes would be sited as the reason why it will never happen, but I’d be ready to put money on it that the cost of separating the various plastics (over time) far outweighs the cost to the manufacturers and the strain on out thinly stretched resources. So why should we be paying for it through extortionate council tax bills, when the cost could be more easily borne by the multimillion pound manufacturer?

I guess it’s the same old story, the might of big business and the money and power that goes along with it ultimately wins over the protesting populous, as big business will always have the politicians’ ear; it’s no surprise. But here’s the thing, threaten public health, create a health scandal about the industry and the manufacturers would have to fall line; the horse meat outrage is a great example of this, not to mention the many food scares we have had in the past. So maybe that’s what we need, a direct link to the public health relating to the use of multiple types of plastic; perhaps if we all approached the NHS with back problems brought on by bending down sorting the recycling, or eye sight exertion trying to differentiate the PET from the HPDE, or maybe even conclusive proof that the chemicals used in their production, or ones that may leech out whilst in use, are a risk to our health. Maybe then the government would have to step in, demand a new plastic standard, put the onus on the manufactures and save us all a lot of time and money.

This would of course mean that very thing would cost a penny more; the industries answer to the share holders, but in my mind that wouldn’t be a bad thing and in truth a very small price to pay. You may even find over time that we ultimately go back to a better time when liquids are only available in reusable, recyclable glass bottles and good old paper bags become the norm rather than the unrecyclable LDPE bags that we consider as the norm.

I visited the village butcher the other day and asked him how business was now that people have started to question the source of their food; he said it was like going back thirty years; not a bad thing?:)

Author: Eddy Winko

Left the rat race to live a less hectic and harmful life. From the building of a straw bale house to the composting toilet diaries; read my blog

14 thoughts on “One green (PET, HDPE,PVC, LDPE, PP) bottle standing on the wall”

  1. Greetings Eddy – Thanks so much for your thoughtful post, and for mentioning us. We are in total agreement that the end of life waste cost of plastics should be borne by the manufacturers. We are also great believers in the precautionary principle such that products be proven safe before they can be offered to consumers – products laced with harmful leaching chemicals are unfortunately far too common.

  2. I am very liberal in my politics but conservative in a lot of other things. This has nada to do with your blog entry, but it does say: Leave a Reply.

    I reuse a teabag until I am just holding a cup of hot water.
    I save old plastic (eke) grocery bags and use as garbage/trash bags.
    I use the remainder of the soap bar down to the last atom.
    I stamp and stomp on the toothpaste tube for 3-4 more brushings.
    I write very small blog postings to conserve WP space.
    I size and resize my pictures/graphics to conserve space on HD.
    I do dishes once a day to conserve energy. (mine own) 😦

    I could write more but don’t want to waste your commenting space. 🙂

  3. As you said Eddy – it’s about money (plastics come from oil of course) but I don’t think you’re right that it would cost more to replace the majority of plastics in food packaging. If I bought from the supermarket what I buy many Saturdays from my local butcher I’d have one kitchen recycling – or ‘waste’ – bin full of space-wasting plastic containers each time. Just think of all those idiotic little containers of so-called ‘healthy’ yoghurt, where the container probably costs more than the contents – good for the petrochemical industry though.

    1. Well they are changing cars to electric as the cost of oil rises so it’s only a matter of time before plastic go the same way and an alternative is found; I hope 🙂

  4. We have ‘corresponded’ about this issue before Eddy, after my post ‘Recycling my arse’. Was it far to the Council facility? Another issue; re-claiming the so-called Carbon Footprint, of millions of cars trundling back and forth around the UK, dropping off glass and plastic, supposedly to be recycled to ‘save the planet’. It is like something out of Gilbert and Sullivan. I imagine that they could have made an amusing operetta out of all this.
    ‘disperser’ makes some good points above, though I do not recall ever getting any illnesses from the re-used milk bottles, and lemonade bottles, and beer bottles, that I drank from, for the better part of my life. As for water, I think we have had enough fall on this country during 2012. But have we managed to save any of it? Who ever really knows the truth about what goes on? Cheers mate, Pete.

  5. The bottom line is there’s just too much plastic around, in packaging and subsequently irresponsibly discarded – look at the issue of marine litter. Our Council does take plastic to recycle, but I have reservations about what it actually does with our poorly sorted plastics. Maybe your council is being more realistic! Thought provoking topic, thanks.

    1. I fear that most of it goes to landfill or China; although I did read recently that even the Chinese are refusing to take our refuse! Your right, there is just too much of it, hopefully the industry will find something better one day.
      I was pleased to find that everyone here drinks water from the tap 🙂

  6. One quick comment, and I stress I am not an expert on this, but the variety of plastics has more to do with safety than anything else. And by that I mean what the plastic is used for.

    Depending on expected temperatures, contents, longevity of use, etc, different plastics are used, and they have different properties .

    Now, it’s true they could make them all the same, but they would then have to be to the highest standard and for the most extreme conditions. Some plastic needs to be durable enough to be microwaved, frozen, dropped, bent, crushed, etc.

    Here’s something that touches on all this, while . . . er . . . whilst concentrating on one topic.

    If I misunderstood the gist of your piece above, please correct me, but the idea of using one material, or just a few materials for a wide range of applications might not even be practical from a consumer point of view, either; it would probably cost more than the one or two pennies.

    1. You are right, I have taken a very simplistic view of things; however my wider point is that we shouldn’t be using plastic at all, it’s unnecessary in quite a lot of domestic products and ultimately pollutes our environment in its manufacture and disposal. Better products could be designed and made, but they don’t have to so why bother spending the money; after all they have share holders to pay a dividend to!
      I had a quick read of the article (cheers) but unfortunately a lot of the evidence sited relies on the FDA to make its point. I know the FDA is a government organisation, but from the little I know about it much of its research is provided and funded by the industry it is meant to be regulating and that’s never a good mix.
      I’m not so much against the consumer, just in favour of the planet and if it cost us all a little bit more then I think it’s a price worth paying.
      I have started to grow my hair 🙂

      1. Not denying the disposable mentality is a bad thing for the environment, but remember it’s not all one-sided. Companies are not pushing this stuff on us (us being used as a generic term). Well, maybe a little, but the bigger point is they are responding to a demand.

        And even the argument that better products could be designed and made . . . who would buy them? There are alternatives available now.

        Do we know for sure they are a better choice? What is the cost of non-disposable things in water used to clean them, soaps used to clean them, and possible bacterial infections when they are not cleaned properly?

        One example is where I work. The water dispenser company can provide plastic cups for a small price. The company chooses not to pay it. So people use cups. Great, right? Except they wash them, using water, using soap. Not a big deal for our small company with 20 employees in this office. What about a large outfit, with thousands of employees? How much water would be used? How much soap would get into the environment?

        What about cities with millions of people? Can we say for sure one choice is better than the other?

        I hate plastic stuff in many products, but what is the alternative? Steel? Ceramics? Wood? All those are also resources, and many require lots of energy and non-green methods to produce. Not to mention weight penalties, durability issues, etc.

        Honest, I’m not arguing in defense of the plastic industry. But I am saying there is the possibility that if we did not have plastic to bitch about, we might be bitching about a different industry.

        Because underlying all of it is the sheer number of people, and all the resources they require and consume.

        7+ billions on the way to 12?

        Honest; plastic is not high up there in my list of concerns.

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