While plastic is a nearly ubiquitous material, making appearances in bags, bottles, and literally hundreds of other frequently produced and used items, it’s quite likely that you don’t have extensive knowledge about it. Plastic is an interesting material with a wide variety of uses and ecological implications. Here’s four interesting facts you probably weren’t aware of – some good and some bad – but they’re all worth knowing.
Plastic Bags are Even More Popular Than You Think
About thirteen billion plastic bags are made every single year, which means that roughly three hundred plastic bags are produced per adult per year. In the United States, four out of five bags are plastic, but luckily, reuse is common: over ninety percent of American consumers reuse plastic bags to hold food, trash, or something else at least once before tossing the bag out for good.
Meanwhile, many other countries, such as Ireland, China, Bangladesh, Austria, Australia, and a number of other nations in the European Union have begun enforcing heavy regulations on the use of plastic bags, if not banning their use outright.
The Recycling Industry Is Taking Off (Albeit Slowly)
Plastic takes an extremely long time to decompose—about 450 years just to start the process, plus an additional fifty to eighty years to finish it fully. This means that every single piece of plastic that has ever existed still has not decomposed entirely.
Because of the environmental problems this can cause, many people have started taking recycling a lot more seriously. In the United States, the number of businesses that consistently recycle their plastic products has tripled, and the overall rate of recycling in the country has climbed to twenty-seven percent. While this number isn’t as high as it should be, progress is still being made!
Unfortunately, recycling is not taken as seriously in Europe, where people recycle only a little bit over two percent of the plastic bottles they use.
Recycled Plastic Can Be Incredibly Useful
Though the vast majority of people are still failing to recycle as regularly as they should be, the benefits of recycled plastic cannot be denied. In fact, a single plastic bottle being recycled can conserve the amount of energy necessary to light up a sixty-watt light bulb for six hours. If everyone recycled the plastics that they used, they could conserve up to two thirds of the energy needed to make plastic out of raw materials.
Sorting Recycled Plastics
All products made with plastic are identified with a “plastic identification code”, and are grouped into seven categories for certain types of plastic. The codes are used to sort plastic waste. They are, in alphabetical order:
- HDPE (High-density polyethylene)
- LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
- Other (Mixed Plastics)
- PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
- PP (Polypropylene)
- PS (Polystyrene)
- Vinyl (Poly Vinyl Chloride)
The Ecological Impacts of Plastic are Unfortunate
When plastic is not disposed of properly, it can cause environmental turmoil. This is an especially huge problem in the oceans, where roughly 150,000 tons of plastic waste finds its way into the water, mostly due to the fishing industry. This plastic usually takes the form of plastic nets, lines, and packaging. Besides the obvious problem of pollution, many sea creatures mistake plastic products for food, which can cause serious health problems, or even death.
Need plastic components for a project? Looking for other materials or just have some questions about the uses of plastic within your fastener? Let E&T Fasteners help you – contact us today.