Recently my kids’ school participated in a plastic-film collection contest sponsored by A Bag’s Life and our local recycling nonprofit, Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM). The prize (which, as it turns out, we won!) is a cool plaque made of recycled plastic.
Unlike glass and metal, which usually get recycled back into bottles or cans, plastic doesn’t always get reborn as another grocery bag or water bottle. It could become building materials, fabric, carpeting, auto parts, playground equipment, and much, much more.
While I like to do my part and recycle plastic as much as I can (both the numbered plastic that goes in my bin and the flexible plastic film, such as grocery bags, that goes to a special collection point), I also like to buy products made of recycled plastic content wherever I can.
It’s not always easy finding products made from recycled plastic, so I’ve put together a few of my favorites. After all, supporting companies that utilize recycled materials is just as important as recycling itself!
1. Vegan Leather Bags
I bought a backpack from Canadian handbag designer Matt & Nat because it was cute, but later I was pleased to discover that the company specializes in vegan leather exteriors, while the lining is made completely from recycled bottles (turns out the name is shortened from MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE). Other components include recycled bicycle tires and sustainable cork and rubber.
2. Plastic Patio Furniture
Plastic lumber is one of the most common things produced with recycled plastic. And it makes great outdoor furniture: It’s durable, weather-resistant, colorful, and, when you’re done with it, can be recycled again! Polywood has a huge variety of furniture that is made from milk jugs and plastic containers, from Adirondack chairs to swings.
3. A Formal Dress
A textiles company, Bionic Yarn, is collecting plastic bottles and other trash that’s littering shorelines, and turning it into polyester fiber. While it’s being used by a wide number of fashion brands, one of our favorites is a stunning, luxe ball gown that’s part of H&M’s Conscious collection.
4. A Groovy Skateboard
Discarded fishing nets comprise around 10 percent of all marine litter and can hurt or kill marine animals and birds. Plus, these plastic nets can take hundreds of years to break down. Bureo, a company with offices in California and Santiago, Chile, collects these nets from the Chilean coast and turns them into skateboards! About 50 square feet of fishing net is recycled into one skateboard.
5. Kitchen Cabinets
Last year, IKEA debuted a new kitchen cabinet collection that’s made from reclaimed wood covered with a veneer of recycled plastic bottles. Each of the cabinet fronts uses about 25 half-liter bottles. Don’t need a kitchen renovation? The company is also going to be using the material to make wardrobes.
6. A Chic Area Rug
Many area rugs are made from PET fibers anyway, so it makes sense to create these fibers from recycled PET plastic. Flooring and fiber company Mohawk Industries has developed a fiber called Everstrand, which is made from up to 100 percent recycled PET. Plastic bottles are the main source of recycled content, which the company says makes a stronger fiber. Mohawk’s subsidiary, Karastan, offers a variety of rug styles crafted of the Everstrand yarn.
Buying products made from recycled plastic can help encourage more manufacturers to use recycled — rather than virgin — materials in their production, and can help reduce your carbon footprint.