What happens to that water bottle you just threw in the recycling container? You might assume it gets made into another plastic bottle but actually there are any number of possibilities including plastic benches, drainage pipes and signs.
The plastic bottle has become the symbol of recycling, much as the aluminum can was twenty years ago. And yes, there is a good chance that at least some of that water bottle will resurface as another water bottle. There is an enormous demand for bottles for water, juice and soda. Beverage companies have learned that making containers from recycled plastic lowers production costs, and builds a good public image.
PETE and HDPE--those are plastics #1 and #2 for those non-chemists out there--are used in other packaging as well. Nearly anything with clear plastic case is probably using at least some recycled plastic. It's an inexpensive, strong material that is convenient for any number of packaging uses.
Furniture manufacturers have found plastic park benches to be a great alternative to traditional wood and metal seating. Plastic benches are inexpensive, durable and easy to clean. Using recycled materials minimizes the environmental impact by requiring no trees to be cut down, no land to be mined for metals, and no smelters to pour pollution into the air.
Of course plastic benches aren't the only recycled furniture. Plastic picnic tables, planters, signs and more are found in more places every day. Municipal authorities are using this type of furniture more often than ever for bus stops, parks and other public areas since the material is not only cheap and long lasting, but is resistant to vandalism and easy to keep clean. Even private home owners are buying attractive plastic furniture for their backyards and pools.
Landscaping and Construction
Plastic doesn't degrade over time, which is both its greatest asset and liability. This means the material difficult to dispose of but makes it ideal for use in long-lasting construction projects. Landscapers use plastic walkways, supports and fences because the material doesn't fade in the sun, doesn't rot in the rain, and doesn't crack in the cold.
Recycled plastic is commonly used in construction. Membranes of recycled plastics are used under flooring as a moisture barrier, and the flooring itself may be made of a wood-like plastic. Pipes and ducts are often made of the material since it's cheaper than metal and just as durable. Construction scaffolds use plastic boards, finding them to be more durable and provide better footing than wooden boards.
Saying something looks "plastic" is usually considered an insult, but as people discover creative and attractive uses for the material it is becoming more accepted. Plastic bottles, plastic park benches, plastic recycling bins, plastic picnic tables and plastic buildings don't have to be ugly or even bad for the environment as long as we are smart about recycling the material.Image: http://freedigitalphotos.net