The answer is yes.
Surely everyone who cares about the environment knows about the plastic trash pile floating in the Pacific, how people eat and drink chemicals that leach from plastic bottles or containers for heating leftovers in the microwave, and other horrors.
What’s more, plastic is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that both has its own environmental issues and contributes to economic and geopolitical problems.
Plastic is an environmental menace, but it is also a precious resource. What is so much of it doing in the ocean, along the road, or in landfills?
Just to mention one example, Repreve,™ a polyester fabric made from 100% recycled plastic, came on the market in 2006. Unifi, the manufacturer, uses both post-consumer waste (plastic bottles) and pre-consumer waste (which results from the process of making the bottles in the first place.
Here are just a few of the environmental benefits offered by a fabric made from recycled plastic:
- The 247 million bottles used to make Repreve over the past two years did not become part of the waste stream.
- The first generation of man-made fibers are made from oil, as are the plastic bottles. By using waste plastic instead of new oil, Repreve reduces the demand for whatever oil would be needed to make the older fabrics.
- Manufacturing Repreve consumes less energy than what is required to refine a usable raw material from crude oil.
- Carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by more than half by using bottles instead of virgin polyester.
Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among many other colleges, universities, and high schools throughout the nation, recently started using graduation caps and gowns made from Repreve.
Each gown contains the equivalent of about 23 plastic bottles. Duke alone expects to divert about 10,000 from the waste stream this year. Think of what one product from one fabric can do when multiplied by all the other schools nationwide who use it!
First, consumers must participate in recycling programs instead of throwing recyclables in the trash.
Second, some manufacturer must use recycled materials as a raw material for a product.
Third, someone must buy that product. Recycling has not always worked as designed.
Perhaps if enough products like Releve become well-known and accepted, enough more people will see plastic as a precious resource. And if it’s a precious resource, less of it will go into the waste stream where it especially becomes an environmental menace.
Trash on a Malaysian Beach ©epSos.de