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Recycled Plastics: What Are They Used For?

Did you know that nearly 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year? Unlike other types of waste, such as paper, cardboard, and discarded food, plastic doesn't decompose and stays in the environment forever. You know that recycling plastic is a good thing, but what happens to your old water bottles and margarine containers after you place them in the bin? Here are four common uses for recycled plastics.

Bottles, Containers, and Packaging

One of the most common uses for recycled packaging is making more packaging. However, recycling plastic isn't as simple as washing and reusing it or turning it back into the type of container it was before. Because plastic degrades every time it's recycled, that water bottle you threw out must be turned into a lower quality plastic for its next life. This also means that plastic has a limited number of times it can be recycled.

Clothing and Apparel

Would you wear a shirt made of saran wrap or a pair of jeans created from old bottles? Turning trash into clothing is more fashionable than you might think. Discarded plastic can be turned into a strong and durable yarn for weaving textiles. This yarn is used to make t-shirts, pants, bags, furniture and more. Companies like those at BionicYarn.com harvest plastics from the ocean and beaches to make into these special textiles.

Shoes and Footwear

Recycled plastic fashion doesn't stop at your feet. From stylish dress shoes and pumps to sneakers that can take on any basketball court, recycled plastic is a great material for making shoes and footwear. If you love the look of leather but want to avoid animal products, vegan leather created from recycled plastic is a beautiful and environmentally-friendly alternative.

Outdoor Decking

Where do plastic shopping bags go after you return them to the store? Many of them get turned into attractive, low-maintenance planks for outdoor decks and patios. Reclaimed wood is mixed with recycled plastic to create sustainable decking that stands up to the elements and doesn't require frequent staining and sealing like hardwood decking.


Although there are many useful ways to recycle plastics, remember that reducing your consumption of single-use plastics is also important. Because plastics can only be recycled so many times, they can still end up in a landfill, or worse, in the environment at the end of their useful lifespan. Look for package-free or sustainably packaged items, and always bring your own reusable shopping bag to the store.

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