Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics

Single-use plastics, water bottles, plastic trays, bags on a brown wood backgroundSingle-use plastics have been in the news a lot recently. Over a dozen Oregon cities have passed rules restricting the use of plastic bags and Portland recently passed a policy restricting single-use plastic serviceware.

Why, you may ask?

  • Plastics are made from non-renewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas
  • Only a small percent of them are recycled
  • Plastic that ends up in the environment poses risks to wildlife
  • Plastic bags when placed in home or work recycling containers cause problems at local recycling facilities

Plastic debris washed up on a beachEnvironmental Concerns

Plastics have become the most common type of marine litter worldwide. It’s been found in oceans, beaches and even inside animals who mistakenly eat it thinking it’s food. A recent study found that only 9 percent of the over 8 billion metric tons of plastic created has been recycled. A massive 79 percent has been sent to landfills or ended up in the environment. We also don’t really know how long it takes for plastic to break down, estimates range from 450 years to never. When plastic does degrade in the environment it breaks down into smaller and smaller bits which leads to animals thinking it’s food.

National Geographic has started a multiyear effort to educate and raise awareness about plastics – visit Planet or Plastic? To learn more.

Plastic bags tangled up around screens at a recycling sorting facilityRecycling Concerns

Plastic bags are not accepted in your home or work recycling collection containers. In this system they are considered a contaminant where they can get tangled up with other recycling materials and machinery and must be manually removed. Local recycling centers estimate that plastic film (including plastic bags) are responsible for 25-30 percent of their total labor costs. Once bags are caught up in the recycling machinery they are too dirty to be recycled and are sent to the landfill.