Last year, 3 million PET [plastic #1] bottles a day were being buried in state landfills and not recycled, according to a report by the California Department of Conservation. Only 16 percent of PET bottles used in California are recycled.
This is sad. Californians, by and large, are good at recycling. And yet 84% of plastic bottles go into the trashcan?
I think the problem with plastic bottles is that people don’t use them at home. People carry bottles in the car, or on foot, and then toss them in the nearest trash can when they’re empty. The alternatives — carrying the bottle to a recycling bin, or (even better), taking it home to wash and reuse — is apparently too great an effort.
I think I’d vote for a law requiring communities to put single-stream recycling containers in accessible locations. There are probably already laws about providing trash containers; we could amend that law to require one recycling bin for every two trash bins. Then all these well-hydrated but impatient bottle-carriers would have a more-sensible place to drop their empty bottles.
It would of course be better for all concerned if everybody reused their bottles. Do the math: if everyone reused each plastic bottle just one time, they’d cut the landfill problem in half. They’d cut their bottled-water costs in half. Discarding plastic bottles is a lot like throwing money away.