Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Corner: Recycle / Reuse | News, Sports, Jobs

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Recycling is not a new concept. I remember waiting for the milkman to deliver me cold milk and cottage cheese. These products were delivered in glass containers, which, once emptied, we would be recycled. When the plastic containers arrived on the scene things changed and my mom was buying milk and cottage cheese, wrapped in plastic containers, at the grocery store. My mom (like many other moms) became a pioneer in reuse as these containers ended up in our refrigerators full of leftovers. And soon became the receptacles for carrying mismatched buttons, broken pencils, etc.

Plastics were introduced to the world in 1862 with the first plastics made from plant cellulose. Most of today’s plastics are made from hydrocarbon molecules as a byproduct of oil and gas refining. Plastics have become a mainstay in the packaging and manufacturing of products. According to an article published by Columbia University Climate School “More plastic is on the way: what it means for climate change” Written by Renee Cho on Feb 20, 2020, The proliferation of plastic manufacturing is polluting our water, air and land. Additionally, Cho states that “Microplastics and tiny plastic fibers have been found in honey, sugar, beer, processed foods, shellfish, salt, detergent bottled water, and tap water; However, the health effects of microplastics are still unclear.

So how does plastic affect climate change? The production of plastic exacerbates greenhouse gas emissions. As you probably know, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Earth’s greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. Each stage of the plastic life cycle contributes to these gases. It starts in the oil and gas fracturing process, where ethane is emitted. Second, refining and manufacturing increase air emissions estimated at 800,000 new cars on the road each year. Then is throwing away the used plastics. The plastic is usually incinerated, recycled or ends up in a landfill. It is through the incineration process that more gas is introduced into our atmosphere. According to a National Geographic report in 2018, only 9% of all plastics were recycled.

The best solution, according to the Center for International Environmental Law, would be to ban plastics or at least work on a global campaign against single-use plastics. But, these two solutions have many problems. One of them would have a significant financial impact while a second would lead to the question: what would we replace plastics with? And it could be as destructive as plastic.

This leaves us with the question, what can we do? The best solution for each of us is to recycle or reuse. We can recycle our plastics. Recycled plastics are used to make many usable items such as bottles, bags, play equipment, and foam packaging. Think about all those water bottles that you drink, that your local baseball team drinks during a game, or that you serve at your summer gatherings. They can all be recycled. Most plastics can be recycled, just check with your local recycling center.

Or we can learn a lesson from my mother: reuse. We can reuse our dairy cartons to organize things like screws, nails and buttons. We can reuse coffee containers for flour, sugar, rice, bean boxes, etc. We can even reuse plastic bottles to freeze water for use in your coolers. As a child, we used egg cartons to make decorations. The possibilities are limitless. We are only limited by our imagination.

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Nenna Davis holds a BA in Zoology / Botany and an MA in Organizational Communication,

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