Extreme recycling: Turn old plastic bags into yarn

By Maria Johnson
Staff Writer

Due to rough economic times, the market for salvaging reusable materials has dwindled and recycling programs are being cut, city by city, across the nation. Prescott citizens got a taste of this issue when glass recycling was discontinued on September 1, 2010.

After 15 years of challenges in the glass-recycling industry, the City of Prescott ran out of options when it became unprofitable. Following the announcement, many citizens came up with creative ways to reuse glass and avoid disposing of it in a landfill.

Many other non-recyclable materials, however, share a similar fate with glass and need creative input to keep them from polluting our planet– consider these alternative options the next time you are about to throw something away.

Styrofoam: Toxic to manufacture and fills as much as 30 percent of landfills worldwide. Without the presence of certain solvents, it will remain intact for nearly 500 years. Avoid obtaining it by bringing your own containers to restaurants and choosing to buy products with other packaging.

If you do end up with some Styrofoam here and there, use it to germinate seeds and sprout plants. Give foam egg cartons to local chicken farms. If you receive Styrofoam packaging pellets, reuse them in the next package you will be sending or check with local shipping businesses to see if they can reuse them. Use pieces for drainage in potted plants instead of heavy rocks. Make a cozy beanbag chair.

Plastic bags: Every year, 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Bring your own durable reusable cotton bag to the grocery store to avoid using them in the first place.

To get rid of those old plastic bags taking up cabinet space, cut them into strips and put them into “yarn” for crocheting and knitting. Make fabric by ironing the plastic bags, with a sheet of baking paper between your iron and the plastic, until two or more sheets fuse together.

Glass:  It is one of the very few products that can be completely recycled time and time again. When thrown away, however, it ends up in landfills and never decomposes. Only about 26 percent of glass in the U.S. is recycled.

Acquired glass can be reused to store leftovers — better yet, start canning your homemade pickles, salsa and jam. Use glass jars or cut-down beer bottles as drinking glasses. Put any kind of glass into a rock tumbler to make glass pebbles. Use old beer bottles as candle holders or vases. Store spices, art supplies, or collections inside glass containers. Create a mosaic.

Recyclable items in Prescott:
Aluminum — cans, food containers and foil.
Metal — clothes hangers, lids and empty aerosol cans.
Paper — newspaper, junk mail and magazines.
Chipboard — dry food boxes, shoe and gift boxes.
Cardboard — no larger than 20″ x 30.”
Plastics — number 1 through number 7 plastics with lids removed.

This article appeared in the May 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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