November 15 is America Recycles Day, the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling. It’s a great reminder to incorporate more plastics recycling (and other materials) into your daily routine and to look for home building products made with recycled plastics, so your home improvements can help you contribute to sustainability year-round.
Many of us focus our household recycling efforts in the kitchen where there’s a large variety of plastic packaging that can be recycled, including beverage bottles, milk jugs, condiment bottles, bread bags and more. However, you also can recycle plastic packaging found in other parts of your home, such as bottles for shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, medicine, laundry detergent, floor cleaner and more. And remember: recyclers want bottle caps, too. When you recycle these everyday plastics, you help give valuable materials a new life.
So what happens to the plastics you recycle? Some live on as new consumer products, including beautiful and functional building materials. You can help close the recycling loop by choosing high-quality products made with recycled plastics for your home. Here are a few examples:
Plastic lumber is a durable outdoor building staple, often made with recycled HDPE plastic (the type of plastic used for milk jugs) or grocery bags and other flexible plastic wraps. Plastic lumber looks a lot like wood, but plastics are resistant to moisture and insects, and the lumber needs very little maintenance. Used to build decks, fences, railings and swimming pool enclosures, lumber made with recycled plastics not only looks great and lasts a long time, but it also helps keep plastics out of landfills. In fact, one composite lumber maker used 3.1 billion recycled grocery bags in 2010 to make its products, according to the company.
Companies now make versatile flooring tiles with recycled plastics. Thanks to the durability of plastics, these tiles are especially well suited for parts of the home that are exposed to heat or moisture, such as patios, bathrooms or basements. Recycled plastic flooring tiles can be a good DIY project for homeowners—many types simply snap into place. And because plastics are so versatile, you can find tiles made to look like a variety of traditional flooring surfaces, from wood to brick to stone, so you’re sure to find a style that enhances the look of your home.
It’s easier than ever to find beautiful carpeting made with recycled plastics from used beverage bottles. After your recyclables are collected, used plastic bottles are cleaned, melted down and stretched into a fine thread, which is then woven into soft, durable carpet fiber. Carpeting made with recycled plastics is available in a variety of colors to complement your personal style. Choosing recycled plastic carpeting helps ensure a valuable resource doesn’t go to waste. For example, one company says it has diverted 30 billion plastic bottles from landfills to make carpeting since 1999.
Some manufacturers now make attractive countertops with recycled HDPE plastic from milk and detergent jugs. Countertops made with these recycled plastics are ideal for a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or any other room that requires a tough work surface—the resilience of plastics will help these countertops stand up to years of use.
Companies are finding new ways to incorporate recycled plastics into insulating products. For example, one company uses discarded plastic bottles to make insulation for roofs, walls and floors. The bottles are melted down and woven into hollow fibers that trap air, helping keep homes cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Reducing the energy used for home heating and cooling is a great way to contribute to sustainability.