A guide to the different types of plastic

April 18, 2019 by  
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BPA, PET, HDPE. You’re trying to do the right thing by recycling, following health alerts and shopping wisely, but you’re not fluent in molecular chemistry. So how do you decipher exactly what it all means and how to stay green? We’re here to help with a handy guide on different types of plastic and how they impact the planet and your health. Fast facts about our plastic problem According to Earth Day , here are some stats that give you an idea of the scale of our plastic addiction. • Since its invention in the 1950s, over 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced. • Ninety-one percent of all plastics are not recycled, meaning almost all plastic ever produced is piled up in our landfills and oceans . • Americans use 100 billion plastic bags every year. If you tie all these bags together, they reach around the Earth 773 times. • By 2050, there will be more pounds of plastic in the ocean than fish. • There are more microplastics in the ocean than stars in the Milk Way. What are microplastics? Keep reading! Types of plastic: what the terms mean, where you find them and how they impact health Courtesy of National Geographic and  Waste4Change , below are terms commonly used by manufacturers and health advisers. Additives Additives are chemicals added to plastic to enhance certain qualities. For example, they might make the material stronger, more flexible, fire-resistant or UV inhibitive. Depending on what is added to the plastic, these substances can be toxic to your health. Biodegradable This term means that a material can break down into natural substances through decomposition within a reasonable amount of time. Plastic does not biodegrade , so the term is misleading and still means that the substance may leave toxic residue behind. In fact, some states are now banning this term in relation to plastic. Bioplastic Bioplastic is a broad term for all types of plastic, including both petroleum and biological-based products. It does not mean that a plastic is non-toxic, made from safe or natural sources or non-fossil-fuel-based. This term can be misleading, because many consumers assume “bio” means natural and therefore healthy. Related: Shellworks upcycled leftover lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastics Bisphenol-A (BPA) BPA is a toxic industrial chemical that can be found in plastic containers and in the coating of cans, among other uses. It can leach into foods and liquids. BPA-free products have merely replaced the substance with less-toxic bisphenol-S or bisphenol-F, both of which still pose health concerns. Compostable This term means something can break down or degrade into natural materials within a composting system, typically through decomposition by microorganisms. Some new plastics are labeled as compostable; however, this certification mostly requires industrial composting systems, not your garden compost pile. Compostable plastics do not leave behind toxic residue after they decompose, but they must be separated out for industrial composting and not put in recycle or landfill bins. Some major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis have industrial composting programs, but many do not. Ghost nets/fishing gear Approximately 640,000 tons of fishing gear are abandoned, lost or discarded in the ocean every year. Most of this equipment is made from plastic, including nets, buoys, traps and lines, and all of it endangers marine life . Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) HDPE is thick plastic used in bags, containers and bottles. It is safer and more stable that other plastics for food and drinks and can be recycled . Microplastics Microplastics are particles less than 5 millimeters long. There are two types: Primary: resin pellets melted down to make plastic or microbeads used in cosmetics and soaps Secondary : particles that result from larger pieces of plastic (such as fabrics and bottles) breaking down into millions of tiny particles that can enter air and water Ocean garbage patches Specific ocean currents carry litter thousands of miles and cause it to collect in certain areas known as garbage patches . The largest patch in the world spans a million square miles of ocean and is mostly made up of plastics. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE) Polyethylene terephthalate is a widely used plastic that is clear, strong and lightweight. It does not wrinkle and is typically used in food containers and fabrics. It is the most likely to be recycled, but it is a known carcinogen, meaning it can be absorbed into liquids over time and cause cancer . Polypropylene (PP) PP is stiffer and more heat-resistant than other types of plastic. It is often used for hot food containers, diapers, sanitary pads and car parts. It is safer than PVC and PET but still linked to asthma and hormone issues. Polystyrene (Styrofoam) Typically used in food containers and helmets, this material does not recycle well and can leach styrene that is toxic for the brain and nervous system. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) PVC is considered the most hazardous plastic, because it can leach chemicals like BPA, lead, mercury and cadmium that may cause cancer and disrupt hormones. It is often used in toys, cling wrap, detergent bottles, pipes and medical tubes. It usually has to be recycled into separate and more rare recycling programs. Single-use plastic Single-use plastic is designed to be used only once and then disposed of, such as grocery bags and packaging. Environmentalists encourage reducing your single-use plastic consumption, because after their short lifespan, these plastics pile up and pollute the Earth for centuries. Via National Geographic ,  Earth Day , Waste4Change and The Dodo Images via Shutterstock

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A guide to the different types of plastic

3 Ways That Participating in a Sharing Economy Will Change Your Life

September 18, 2018 by  
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You may be hearing the term a lot lately as … The post 3 Ways That Participating in a Sharing Economy Will Change Your Life appeared first on Earth911.com.

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3 Ways That Participating in a Sharing Economy Will Change Your Life

FDA re-appropriates the term ‘milk,’ to potential benefit of dairy industry

July 20, 2018 by  
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In a potential blow to almond and soy milk producers, the FDA plans to crack down on the usage of the term “milk” to refer to nondairy products. Current federal standards regarding the term’s usage were changed in April 2017 in an attempt to boost sales of dairy products, but the standards have not been strictly enforced. Now, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is saying that “plant-based dairy imitators” popular among vegetarians and health-conscious individuals violate the organization’s official definition of milk: “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” According to the Gottlieb, “an almond doesn’t lactate.” The FDA has moved forward with the change despite the fact that several lawsuits are expected. Those protesting the distinction argue that various dictionary definitions cite milk as coming from both nuts and animals , with the earliest records that contain the name ‘almond milk’ dating back to the 16th century. The Food and Drug Administration has argued that it is protecting consumers who may be misled into buying the alternatives while in search of a dairy product. Related: Unreleased internal FDA emails show glyphosate weedkiller residue in almost every food tested Dairy manufacturers have been losing business to their counterparts in the nut industry, which might explain why they’re happy about the change. The worth of the dairy-alternative industry is projected to grow to over $34 billion in the next five years, while dairy producers have been facing falling prices and global oversupply. Chris Galen, a spokesperson for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), expressed the group’s support for the FDA’s tightening of the reins on “dairy imitators (who) violate long standing federal standards.” While the FDA will have to take public comment and develop guidelines before it enacts the change, it seems that big dairy may already have gotten what it wanted. Via Treehugger Images via Shutterstock

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FDA re-appropriates the term ‘milk,’ to potential benefit of dairy industry

How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Add to Your Green Efforts

October 16, 2017 by  
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You may have seen the term “minimalism” being thrown around … The post How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Add to Your Green Efforts appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Add to Your Green Efforts

A trip down the soft energy path

October 7, 2016 by  
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Lessons of the first 40 years of the “soft path” to U.S. energy policy as told by Amory B. Lovins, the climate scientist that coined the term.

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A trip down the soft energy path

Ecological Landscaping Works, Plus How To Do It Correctly

September 26, 2016 by  
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Landscaping can take a drab outdoor home environment and turn it dreamy.  But, your chosen landscaping shouldn’t tax your environment.  What do we mean by that?  We like the term ecological landscaping and the folks over Fix have done a great…

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Ecological Landscaping Works, Plus How To Do It Correctly

How To Make Less Trash The Simply Way

June 29, 2016 by  
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What the heck does it mean to live a zero waste lifestyle? Can I really not make any trash? Don’t let the term fool you. Zero waste is actually an industrial term referring to a circular based economy in which all processes of design (the plan for…

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How To Make Less Trash The Simply Way

This Ecuadorian volcano is ejecting ash nearly five miles into the sky

March 8, 2016 by  
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Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano has been classified as active since 1999, but recent explosions have really redefined the term. Last week, the mountain started ejecting ash an astonishing five miles high into the sky. It seems as though the volcano is living up to its name, which translates as “throat of fire” from the native Quechua language. Read the rest of This Ecuadorian volcano is ejecting ash nearly five miles into the sky

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This Ecuadorian volcano is ejecting ash nearly five miles into the sky

The Great Salt Lake is turning to dust

March 8, 2016 by  
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Utah’s Great Salt Lake is shrinking. A group of local professors and scientists from the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources warned in a paper recently  that the lake has been steadily declining since pioneers arrived on the scene in the 1800’s, and if measures aren’t taken to halt the decline, the Great Salt Lake could vanish entirely. Read the rest of The Great Salt Lake is turning to dust

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The Great Salt Lake is turning to dust

Tesla Steers Its’ Powerwall Battery Towards Home

July 13, 2015 by  
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For many, the term Tesla immediately sparks visions of sporty, 100% electric personal transportation.  Yet, with one simple announcement in early May Tesla is venturing down a path less traveled – the way we power our home lives. Tesla’s…

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Tesla Steers Its’ Powerwall Battery Towards Home

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