Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Plastics #4

Number 4 plastics, or low-density polyethylene (LDPE) shares most of its name with #2 plastics, but not much else. LDPE most commonly used to make bags: shopping bags, tote bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, you name it. Also found in squeeze bottles and sometimes carpeting or furniture, plastics #4 does not hold up well to everyday wear and tear, and because the recycling process further breaks down its polymerized structures, it was long thought to be an undesirable material for remanufacture.

Thankfully, more and more curbside programs are now accepting LDPE for recycling, as manufacturers have found a way to incorporate it into trash cans and liners, compost bins, envelopes, and certain construction materials. Many stores now accept plastic shopping bags for recycling. In fact, all the big-box stores in Chicago are now required to reycle shopping bags as part of a compromise reached between retailers and the City after the proposal to ban plastic bags (or at least charge customers who chose to use them) failed miserably.

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