Reuse and Upcycling of Plastic Packaging

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As much as we may wish to avoid plastic (in our lives) the fact remains – at least for the foreseeable future – that it is with us, especially as far as packaging containers are concerned, and thus reuse and upcycling of those is better than any other solution.

The recycling of plastics – as much as that of everything else – still requires a great amount of energy, even though maybe not as much as creating plastic from virgin polymer. But we do have to consider the collecting, etc., of the plastic recyclables as well, and it takes lots of energy in the form of diesel and other sources.

Thus the greener option by far is reuse and recycling before we even as much as think of the recycling bin and tossing those things into it.

Many plastic packaging containers just simply ask to be reused, be those certain ice cream tubs or others.

But other plastic packaging too is a candidate for reuse and, especially, upcycling, such as shampoo, detergent and other such bottles, including plastic milk jugs and even PET bottles.

PET bottles can be reused, or better upcycled, into various things and in a variety of ways. One thing to say first, however, and that is never, repeat never, reuse them for drinks.

  • plastic ollas for the garden

  • cloches for seedlings and plants

  • etc.

Small drinks bottles filled with pebbles, beans or rice, make great maracas, that is to say, percussion instruments.

Milk jugs are another kind of plastic packaging that many of us get more than enough of and they can be reused and upcycled too into a variety of things for home and garden, from storage solutions, over boxes, to scoops and cloches, and even watering cans. To toss out those jugs, even into the recycling bin, before you have exhausted all the reuse and upcycling possibilities, would be a crime.

There are, obviously, some plastic packaging containers and materials that cannot be reused and upcycled and some of those cannot even, alas, be recycled. Those that cane be reused and upcycled, however, should be before even the thought of the recycling bin comes into play, especially as reuse and upcycling has a much smaller impact on the Planet as does recycling even.

Recycling plastic packaging (and other materials as well) has a large environmental footprint that often we are being kept in the dark about. Not only does the recycling process take a large amount of energy still (and water) the collecting of the recyclables, the sorting, the redistribution, etc., too require a high energy input. While it may be a little less than producing from virgin polymer this footprint is still immense.

Thus, let's see to it, as said before, that we reuse and upcycle all these materials before we even think about tossing them into the recycling.

© 2015