What’s in Your Bucket? (Part 4)

This final wrap up returns to what many people consider the most difficult topic: plastics. Sadly too many people say, “I’ll throw it all in the bin and hope for the best.” Yet plastics are simple.

Most plastics are marked, permitting easy identification. A small triangle with a numeral inside appears on the bottom or other inconspicuous part of the container. If a 1 or 2 is inside the triangle, it is recyclable. Philadelphia only accepts plastics 1 and 2. If the container has no triangle or contains some other number inside the triangle, you should not throw it in your bin. The bigger obstacle with plastics is that manufacturers develop new types of plastic regularly. Plastic number 5 is very common now. Check your purchases to be sure you’ll be able to recycle the containers, buy less plastic, and lobby for expanded plastics recycling. Also keep in mind that some volunteer groups collect other plastics.

For consumers, single stream recycling is a hedge bet. There are ways to make your recycling more green and more economical. Avoid joining mailing lists and switch to email and electronic statements. Print on both sides of the paper to reduce the amount of paper that you use. Consider whether you need to print at all: apply for a job online or submit a resume by email instead of printing it. Maybe you can copy and paste information and email it to yourself, apply labels, and maintain a virtual filing cabinet. Buy products composed of postconsumer recycled content (which may be even more important than whether you recycle your double-sided paper.)

There’s hope that single stream recycling will greatly improve Philadelphia’s recycling rate. The city must educate our citizens. Reducing and reusing are more economical than recycling and use less energy and should be the first steps of creating a more green life. Those steps cannot exist alone and the more we recycle, the greener Philadelphia and its residents will live.

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