Recycling plastic bottles

Save money, and save the planet.

Created to celebrate last year’s Mid- Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, ‘Rising Moon’ combines environmental conservation and vitality. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Created to celebrate last year’s Mid- Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, ‘Rising Moon’ combines environmental conservation and vitality.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
What happens to all the recycled bottles? Israel’s bottles mostly get transformed into sturdy food packaging.
Accordingly, the next time you buy fruit packed into a colorful plastic basket, you’ll be handling an object spun out of bottles collected from a street-side recycling bin.
When these bins first appeared locally, people felt self-conscious about standing on the sidewalk pushing bottles through the slots. In fact, the bins bore a painted message that wavered between the reassuring and the truculent: “It’s crazy not to recycle!” Judging by how quickly the same bins fill up these days, the public has become comfortable with recycling.
This is due to a vigorous ongoing campaign run by the ELA Recycling Corporation, a nonprofit owned by four major beverage producers: the Central Company for Soft Drink Manufacturing, Tempo Beer Industries, Yafora-Tavori and Eden Ma’ayanot.
ELA provides the big green automated collection bins you see in some supermarkets, as well as municipal collection bins and recycling bins at schools. It also runs a well-organized collection operation serving schools, army bases, homes, government offices, restaurants, factories, banks and commercial offices. The system of redeeming the 30-agorot deposit fee encourages the public to bring bottles to recycling facilities.
Plastic beverage bottles are separated into two categories. The first, bottles with a volume of less than 1.5 liters, qualify for the 30-agorot deposit return. Those of 1.5 liters or more are considered voluntary returns, earning no deposit return for the buyer. Some 77.5 percent of return-deposit bottles were recycled in 2013, while 56% of the larger bottles were recycled. The latter statistic beats the United States and Europe’s records of 30.5% and 52% respectively.
While per-person statistics for 2013 are still to be released, the ELA recycling corporation’s site states that in 2012, each Israeli recycled 29 plastic bottles of 1.5 liters. That amounts to 13,000 tons of plastic bottles a year.
Collecting bottles for the fee has long been a way of earning money, but in Israel, children from kindergarten age up participate in bottle collecting to earn money for school projects. The school campaigns are called The Magic of Recycling; ELA provides collection bins and awards points worth credit in school bank accounts. Pupils elect a school project to fund with the money earned.
As the ELA site states, “It turns out that pupils usually know what’s best.” Israeli kids are the trendsetters responsible for changing the public attitude towards recycling, responding to school recycling campaigns with enthusiasm and taking the concept home to their parents. In Israel, children have often taught their parents Hebrew; recently, they’ve taught us to recycle.
While statistics highlight the country’s growing commitment to recycling, there’s still a gap between the volume of our waste and a desired zero-waste goal. Recycling costs energy, too. The most logical solution would be to reduce the number of plastic bottles we use. But it’s not a simple solution.
Cutting the bottles up at home and creating new objects out of them works up to a point. Parents of kindergartenage children are used to seeing, in the classroom, a bottle cut in half and stuffed with a roll of toilet paper that can be pulled out of the refitted open top – a cheap alternative to tissues for wiping little noses.
Eco-friendly magazines suggest making vases, costume jewelry, planters and so on, from plastic beverage bottles. But there are only so many ways we can fill our homes up with these re-purposed bottles.
Unfortunately, eliminating water bottles involves certain expenses that many find hard to meet. Tap water is the obvious first resource to fill multi-use bottles. The consumer must then choose a multi-use bottle to carry around. The most viable system is to wash and refill plastic beverage bottles.
Many are put off by claims that plastic submitted to hot water, or that bears scratches from the washing process, leaches hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals into the fresh drink. The US Food and Drug Administration refutes these claims, but the debate continues. What’s certain is that plastic bottles can be breeding grounds for bacteria if not washed with soap between reuses.
The safest way to reuse soda and mineralwater bottles is to wash with a bottle brush, soap and warm water. Take care to thoroughly clean the cap, especially those with pop-up mouthpieces. If not reusing right away, set the bottle upside down to drain and dry completely. Don’t drink yesterday’s water but empty it out, wash the bottle and refill again. Reuse bottles three times, at most.
Plastic takes an estimated 450-500 years to decompose. None of us will be around to verify that, but think how much healthier the planet would be with no more plastic bottles in landfills and bobbing around in the oceans. Then consider: for every ton of recycled plastic, the equivalent of two people’s energy use for one year, the amount of water used by one person in two months, and almost 900 kg. of oil are saved.
Next time you push a bottle into the recycling bin, congratulate yourself on your contribution to a cleaner world, The ELA recycling corporations’ website (in English) offers information on national recycling efforts: index.php; Their Facebook page (in Hebrew) has many facts and suggestions: www. A quick Google search yields dozens of sites featuring crafts ideas with empty plastic bottles. With Purim coming up, this link may interest those who like to craft innovative and green gift packaging ideas: do-with-empty-plastic-bottles-water-sodabottle- crafts-saturday-inspiration-ideas.html