Almost all Americans now have access to recycling - and more than 90 percent say they recycle in their daily lives, according to a recent national survey. And it's never been easier to recycle, including the plastic bottles, caps and containers we use every day.
But less than a third of Americans say they actively seek out products made with recycled materials to close the recycling loop.
Fortunately, that part is getting easier, too. There's a wide range of high-quality products available today made with recycled materials, so it's easier than ever for consumers to help close the recycling loop. Buying products made with recycled materials, such as plastics, keeps valuable resources out of landfills to live a second life ... or third or fourth.
Here are some examples:
Due to advances in recycling technologies, fashion designers are now incorporating recycled plastics into fabrics and accessories. For example, used plastic beverage bottles are cleaned, melted, and stretched into a fine thread, which then is woven into soft, yet durable fabrics that are used to make a broad range of clothing - from casual T-shirts to stylish dresses to rugged jackets. Many mainstream retailers now sell garments made with recycled materials, so it has become easier to find 'eco-chic' clothing for the whole family.
Several companies make stylish kitchenware with recycled materials, such as the polypropylene plastic used in food packaging and bottle caps. These versatile recycled plastics now are used to make mixing bowls, cutting boards, storage containers, utensils, and a variety of other kitchen products that are shatter-resistant and can be used again and again.
Many companies now sell attractive, durable outdoor furniture made with recycled HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastic from used milk jugs. Adirondack chairs, rocking chairs, benches, tables, and other outdoor furniture stand up to years of use - plus they're weather-resistant and virtually maintenance-free. One company states that each pound of its plastic furniture contains approximately eight used milk jugs - that's a lot of milk jugs diverted from landfills.
Home building products
Due to their durability and versatility, recycled plastics have become an increasingly common component in 'green' construction materials. For example, a very popular line of outdoor decking is made from a combination of recycled plastic bags and reclaimed wood. Many fence makers now sell products made with various recycled plastics and other materials - this fencing stands up to the elements and generally doesn't require painting or treatment. And one company manufactures insulation using recycled plastics from used beverage bottles.
Children's toys made with recycled materials are becoming increasingly easy to find, especially online. Toy trucks, tea sets, and building blocks made with recycled HDPE plastic from milk jugs are available from numerous retailers. Plush toys with both fabric and stuffing made with recycled plastics from beverage bottles also are popular. These toys can help set an example for little ones on the importance of recycling and caring for the planet.
Recycling household plastics and other materials is an important step for the environment. But it's equally important to 'close the loop' by looking for products made with recycled materials - which creates demand for even more recycling.