What is it?
In western countries, we use and throw away a wide array of film, fabric and moulded plastics every day. Plastic is everywhere. It comes in many different forms and is made from non-renewable materials. While some of these products are recycled, the growth of the plastic industry has led to an enormous amount of plastic being sent to landfills where it doesn’t decompose. These non-biodegradable materials pose a health risk to both terrestrial animals and marine life who can either get caught in it or consume it. Plastic is a major source of litter as well.
There are many different types of plastics. Some of the most common include: plastic bags, compostable/biodegradable plastics, beverage containers, Styrofoam, and plastic containers.
Plastic Bags: Handy and lightweight, this product is accepted by some recycling systems, but not all. Although they are typically made of the same materials as other plastics, they can cause problems during the recycling process by wrapping around and clogging the wheels or belts of machinery. Many curbside recycling programs in Saskatchewan no longer accept plastic bags, because of this and because fewer markets for recycling plastic bags exist now that China has imposed import restrictions.
Compostable/Biodegradable Plastic: Some companies offer plastic bags or take out containers that are compostable. Look for the Compostable label from the Biodegradable Products Institute – the products have been certified to break down in an industrial compost system. Compostable products are not designed to break down in a landfill or even a home compost system. It's more effective to find ways to reduce disposable plastic (and advocate for a compost system).
Beverage Containers: Plastic beverage containers are a diverse group that can be recycled into a number of different products ranging from salad dressing containers to patio furniture. A small portion of the recycled plastic can be used to make new plastic bottles. Most plastic beverage containers carry a deposit on them, which can be redeemed at any of the SARCAN locations in Saskatchewan. SARCAN Recycling is a division of the Saskatchewan Association for Rehabilitation Centers and is contracted with the provincial government to deliver the beverage container recycling program.
Styrofoam: Styrofoam is crafted from polystyrene beads and made of about 95% air, which results in a light-weight product that can be used for a wide range of things from cups to medical coolers. Unfortunately, the properties that make Styrofoam so handy also make it difficult to recycle. Its bulk makes it difficult and expensive to transport to recycling facilities while its light weight makes it difficult to collect from curbside containers. Since Styrofoam is made of beads, regular recycling equipment shreds and breaks up Styrofoam until it is too small to be recycled. Curbside programs in Saskatchewan are unable to accept Styrofoam because they do not have the facilities required to recycle it properly. London Drugs, in Saskatoon and Regina, as well as Crown Shred & Recycling in Regina are the only options available to recycle Styrofoam in our province.
Plastic Containers: Plastic containers are made from many of the same materials as plastic beverage containers. All curbside recycling programs across Saskatchewan accept plastic containers. Communities that do not have a curbside program in place typically have a drop-off bin where residents can take their recyclables. Plastic containers that contained pesticides, oil, gas, or any other types of hazardous liquids should be taken to programs designated for hazardous materials. Cleanfarms is the organization in charge of agricultural plastics and has locations across the province that collect pesticide and fertilizer containers. Oil containers are accepted at Household Hazardous Waste Days and certain retailers across the province. Please check out our Waste Reduction Hub to find a location near you.
What do the symbols mean?
Some of the most commonly used plastics are labelled with a number from 1-7. This is a non-mandatory system for naming that separates plastics into 7 different types. These groups are used to help determine what plastic products can be recycled together and made into different commodities. Check out this article to find out what type of products come from each number.
How can I reduce?
- Bring a reusable water bottle with you when you go out so that you don’t have to buy water.
- Pack your food in reusable containers to avoid using disposable ones.
- Rinse and then reuse plastic bags until they rip so that you don’t have to buy as many.
- Bring reusable bags with you when shopping for groceries or other items so that you don’t have to use the plastics ones offered at the store.