With spring just around the corner here in New York State (we STILL have SNOW around here, folks! grrr), our thoughts are turning toward the great outdoors again. I’d heard about the Lights Out campaign through the Internet grapevine, but I didn’t turn my lights out. I forgot. I would love to see our community do something like that, though, so we could all go gaze at the stars without the light pollution.
As the snow melts, I am seeing a TON of litter– especially those nasty plastic Perrier bottles– strewn all over the neighborhood. Holy cow, don’t people through their trash away?! You’d think if they spend their money on “natural” water products they’d help reduce litter and waste by dumping the bottles in a recycle bun or something. Anyway, so the kids’ chores– once the snow is finally all gone– is to collect the litter and bottles, and rake the yard (it helps to aerate the grass).
I am getting more “green” as I get older. I have been looking for ways to reduce waste, spend money and energy wisely, and recycle as much as I can. Recycling and thrift are modern “trends,” but the Yankees of old are the ones who really invented it. There’s an old Yankee proverb that goes, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, Or do without.” Love it! It’s not easy coming up with creative ideas to use junk or used stuff, but once the ball gets rolling, it becomes a bit of a game. How can I use this piece of junk in a useful way, rather than just toss it in the trash?
Of course, there are some things that we can’t use and must dispose of. Did you know that a lot of our plastics can be reused? I had no idea. I thought they melted the plastic bottles and made more bottles. They do, but first the plastic waste (the most common is called High Density Polyethelene) is chopped up into tiny bits HDPE Granules):
HDPE is one of the more commonly found plastics, you’re probably familiar with it even if you haven’t heard of it before, because HDPE is the plastic that Tupperware is made out of. You will also find HDPE in plastic bags, water pipes, folding chairs, and plastic refillable bottles. HDPE resists chemicals well, and is a very effective barrier against moisture, which means that it can be used for the packaging of household chemicals, as well as foodstuffs.
…An extraordinarily versatile product, it is easy to see why HDPE is in such high demand. It originated as a modification of Polyethylene, which was a plastic invented in 1898 by a German chemist named Hans von Pechmann. Like many scientific inventions and discoveries, polyethylene came about by accident whilst the scientist was heating diazomethane, a toxic explosive. It was then rediscovered in an industrial accident at ICI works in Northwich, England in 1933 when high pressure was applied to benzaldehyde and ethylene tainted with oxygen. Between 1951 and 1953, a range of processes for reliably creating large amounts of polyethylene were created by Robert Banks, Paul J. Hogan of Phillips Petroleum, and Karl Ziegler, another German chemist. Polyethylene has grown hugely in popularity since its invention, and it is now estimated that over 60,000 tonnes of it are produced annually.
HDPE is simply a denser form of polyethylene that is suited to many commercial uses because it remains a solid at room temperature, and is stronger than standard polyethylene. In order to make one kilogram of HDPE, about 1.75 kgs of oil is needed, however due to its high recyclability, HDPE can be used again and again. Because of its strength, products made of HDPE can be reused many times, and are popular with manufacturers and consumers alike.
I am pleased to see more of a trend toward making do, using what we have at hand, and recycling materials. The landfills are getting pretty full, wouldn’t you say?