Recycling Is A Beautiful Thing – On The Afterlife of Plastic Bottles and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Do you ever wonder what happens to a plastic bottle once it’s empty, drunk, enjoyed to the last drop? If all goes well it goes to a recycling facility and finds a new life as a different object. That’s the happy princess ending. If all goes wrong it goes to the dump or even worse, it flies out to sea because of forceful winds and ends up floating belly up and slowly disintegrating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That’s the zombie movie scenario.

You can make all the difference between princess and zombie. Let’s talk about recycling.

Earth Day takes place on April 22 every year. On that day, people will pay a lot more attention to recycling. Kids will hear about recycling at school, they’ll be reminded of the blue bins and the green bins. You might take part in a park or beach clean-up activity. But the rest of the year, how do you recycle? At school or on field trips, how do your children recycle? When you’re out for a family picnic or a friendly BBQ at the park, do you recycle?

At home we are compulsive recyclers. Whenever we get rid of an empty yogurt container, a plastic toy or a bottle, we always look at whether or not it can be recycled. Every time we go hiking, we look for trail “trash” – usually plastic – and pick up what other people have left behind so we can recycle it on the way out. A discarded plastic bottle on the beach makes us grind our teeth and my 7-year old will make a run to grab it before it ends up in the dreaded Great Pacific Garbage Patch – that’s my girls biggest nightmare, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Recycling is such an easy thing to do for the environment that I was really surprised about these stats:

1. U.S. plastic beverage bottle recycling rates are only at about 30% – that’s less than 1 in 3 bottles
2. 2.8 Billion plastic bottles ended up in California landfills in 2011 – guess what? landfills become reclaimed land for parks and playgrounds.
3. Even though a package says it is “100% recycleABLE”, that does not mean it is made with recyclED plastic. It just means it CAN BE recycled. In fact, most containers are not made of recycled plastic.If most containers are not made with recycled plastic, what do you think they’re made with? New plastic. More plastic on the planet. As if we needed more.

This infographic shares a few more facts.

Recycling Infographic

You get where I’m going. Plastic bottles need an afterlife, they deserve a chance at being re-used so they don’t end up in smelly landfills. That’s why I am proud to take part in a campaign sponsored by Arrowhead Mountain Water about their new water bottle made with 50% recycled plastic. It’s not 100% recycled plastic yet but it’s definitely a step in the right direction and given the sales volume, it will have an impact on the environment. Check this out:

1. Arrowhead’s new ReBorn™ bottle is made with 50% recycled plastic and demonstrates how the plastic you recycle can be given a new life.
2. Due to the limited supply of high quality recycled plastic, we need your help in recycling so companies like Arrowhead® 100% Mountain Spring Water can use more recycled plastic in our products!

You can learn more about this initiative, recycled plastic projects and a kid-friendly recycling video by clicking on this page and sharing what you know about recycling with others.

I’d love to know how you recycle as a family:

  • Are the kids in charge?
  • Where do you find a spot for your recycling at home before recycling day? 
  • Does the recycled content of a product influence your shopping decisions?
  • Do you find it’s easier to recycle if you stick to XYZ?
  • Are there items you find easier to recycle than others?
  • Is it always clear what you can and what you can’t recycle?

Please share your recycling tips so we can all learn to improve our recycling habits – before, on and after Earth Day!

Thanks to Arrowhead Waters for sponsoring today’s discussion

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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