Film plastic recycling: how one person can spark positive change

By Corey Havens, Salvage Crew

When I first learned that China had stopped taking the worlds recycling it sparked an interest in me. What an amazing problem to solve! Maybe this challenge could encourage a closer look at our patterns of consumption and their impacts. I began to look at my own contributions to the waste stream and immediately noticed something had I had overlooked; film plastic recycling. 

Plastics are are everywhere you look nowadays. At The RE Store we see them as bags that transport donations, as packaging that further swaddles those treasured goods, and in the pens, twine, and pallet wrap we use to move and market reusable material every day. 

The sad truth about all this plastic is that it was never meant to be reused at all. I can’t even eat a potato chip without adding to the world’s growing supply of garbage. Blarg!

When I started researching plastic it became clear that the mass production and over use of disposable plastic goods absolutely needs to come to a halt. I can back up this statement with easily found statistics:

  • Of all the plastic made since the 1950s only 9% has ever been recycled. 
  • The 50 million tons of plastic made globally in 2010 outweighed the entire active US Navy fleet and that now that number is more like 300 million tons. 

I can also quote researchers and fishermen interviewed in “Garbology,” a book by Edward Humes, who describe the 8 million tons of plastics polluting the ocean every year not as a growing ‘patch’ of floating garbage, but as a slowly thickening ‘soup’ that pervades all our waterways. 

Seeing impacts at such a scale could easily be overwhelming, but it’s problems like these that offer opportunity for a great sense of empowerment. This is a rare moment when our individual actions can actually make the biggest difference. 

We already had helicopters, air conditioning and radio before we had all the plastic parts that now seem necessary to build them. Widespread use of plastics really only started because of surplus production capacity after WWII. This gives me hope that we can turn our habits around just as quickly as they started. 

In learning all of this, I decided to change my plastic usage. I stepped up my personal efforts to stop buying goods packaged in plastics, and started recycling plastic bags at local collection points (most any grocery store will take them). I also facilitated a new film plastic recycling habit for my coworkers at The RE Store – we now separate film plastics such as plastic bags, zip loc bags, plastic wrap and bubble wrap and recycle them at SSC. Have you noticed the barrels around the store? We’re averaging 30 lbs. of film plastic recycled each month. 

We can wait on producers to start making responsible changes and we can wait on representatives to facilitate that change, but what fun is that? This is a rare moment when we get to step up and decide what we want to see in the world; to be a part of a change that shapes our lives for the better. 

Written by Corey Havens, Salvage Crew

Want to recycle your household film plastic or set up a recycling station at your work? Learn more from SSC’s website.