Chemistry Council Shares 10 Ways to Reuse Plastic

According to experts, most of us will generate 25 percent more waste during the holidays compared with the rest of the year ─ resulting in an extra 5 million tons of garbage.

To encourage consumers to "trim their trash" while trimming their trees, Plastics Make it Possible(SM), an initiative sponsored by the plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council, offers a list of ways to reuse and recycle everyday plastics.

According to a recent national survey conducted by the initiative, 67 percent of Americans recycle to do their part to help the environment. During the holidays, it's especially important to keep it up.

"From beverage bottles and food containers to shopping bags and dry cleaning wrap, so much of the waste we generate during the holidays is recyclable," said Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division. "These valuable plastic materials can be easily recycled in many communities and given a second life as carpeting, clothing, furniture, durable backyard decks and home building products, new bottles and bags, and other products we use every day."

By turning the following reuse and recycling tips into household habits, you can help reduce waste, keep valuable plastics out of landfills, and protect our planet during the holidays and year-round.

      1. Get smart. Find out which plastics are accepted for recycling in your community. Today, more than 80 percent of U.S. households have access to a recycling program, and the vast majority of them collect plastic bottles. A bottle is any container with a neck or opening that's smaller than its base, such as milk jugs, beverage bottles, shampoo and related bottles, household cleaner bottles, salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles, and other food jars.

      2. Remove and rinse. Before tossing bottles in the recycle bin, remove the caps. Be sure to rinse bottles that previously contained food. (Empty beverage bottles can go straight into the bin.) Unless your community specifically asks for them, bottle caps should be placed in the garbage, not the recycle bin. Similarly, bags should be clean and empty. Do not include plastic food wrap or bags that have food residue.

      3. Reuse, reuse, reuse! From wrapping to ribbons, boxes to packing peanuts, gather and save gift wrap and packing materials for next year! And don't forget bags -- there are many helpful ways to reuse plastic bags, including as a wet umbrella cover, trash can liners, wrap for packing shoes in the suitcase, hand protectors, kitchen cleanup, and pet waste bags.

      4. Bring bags back. Most large grocery stores and some retailers (e.g., Wal-Mart) offer plastic bag drop-off programs that allow consumers to return their used bags and product wraps to be recycled. These bins are usually located at the front entrance or near checkout areas. Almost all kinds of clean plastic bags are accepted for recycling in these programs, including grocery, retail, plastic newspaper, dry cleaning, bread bags as well as plastic wraps used to package paper goods.

      5. Pitch in beyond the kitchen. While many recyclable bottles come from the kitchen, don't forget to check the bathrooms and laundry room for shampoo and detergent bottles.

      6. Practice patience. On the road this holiday season and can't find a recycle bin? Don't throw your empty bottles in the trash -- temporarily store them in a purse or briefcase, or simply leave them in the car until arriving home to place in a recycle bin. And don't forget to temporarily put the cap back on your bottle to prevent leakage until you can properly recycle it.

      7. Don't throw out the leftovers. Saving your lidded plastic food containers and plastic to-go containers from take-out could provide a free and easy way for holiday party guests to carry home leftovers. Plus, they can keep these items and reuse them again.

      8. Check for containers. In addition to bottles, roughly one-third of communities are collecting and recycling plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, tubs, trays and lids. If you're only recycling bottles, check to see if your community is one of the many areas that has recently added food containers to its list of collectibles.

      9. When in doubt, leave it out. Keep in mind that mixing the wrong types of materials (even other plastics) can lower the quality of the recycled material. So unless your community specifically asks for plastics other than bottles, please put only bottles into the recycling bin. Keep these items out of the recycle bin unless your community specifically accepts them: plastic bags or wraps, automotive, pesticide or solvent bottles, lids or spray pumps, toys, or tray tubs or containers.

      10. Adopt a second life mindset. Do you ever wonder where your recyclables go? Keep in mind that today's water bottle could be tomorrow's little black dress or carpeting or backyard deck.