Recycling Reality

October 1, 2006 - January 15, 2007

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
- Rachel Carson

Although recycling efforts have been around since 1690 when the Rittenhouse Mill in Philadelphia recycled the first paper fibers from wastepaper and rags, the natural world isn't what it was in 1690. As a world-wide community, efforts at recycling have increased over the years but the "supply and demand" mindset continues to offset those efforts by increased production of materials that use up natural resources and blanketing the environment with waste in many forms.

In this display, there are 'good' numbers and 'not-so-good' numbers reflecting the 'recycling realities' in our community and the world over. Patrons visiting the display realize the full impact of these numbers as they relate to a wide variety of subject matter associated with recycling. Titles of books, government documents, journals, and microforms help to create the overall picture. Additional information explains how to become more involved in the recycling effort and the resulting benefits.

Effects of Deforestation


Note: Trees "eat" CO2. The more paper we recycle, the fewer trees we cut down. The end result? Less CO2 means cleaner air.

Note: To produce each Sunday's newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down.

Decomposition Rate for Trash

Paper -- 2.5 months
Orange Peel -- 6 months
Milk Carton -- 5 years
Cigarette Butt -- 10-12 years
Plastic bag -- 10-20 years
Disposable diaper -- 75 years
Tin can -- 100 years
Beer can -- 200-500 years
Styrofoam -- Never (immortal)

Resources representing a variety of academic programs make up the display. Here are a few of them. Check the Library catalog for more!

Eco-Crisis Cecil E. Johnson QH541 .J63
Silent Spring Rachel Carson SB959 .C3
Ecology of a Changing Planet Mark B. Bush QH541 .B88 2003
Ecology: Individuals, Populations, and Communities Michael Begon QH541.B415
Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida Ray E. Ashton Ql84.22.F6 R37 1992 v.1
The Next One Hundred Years: Shaping the Fate of our Living Earth Jonathan Weiner QH541 .W37 1990
Our Green and Living World Edward S. Ayensu QH75.093 1984
Biophysical Ecology David M. Gates QH541 .G39
Introduction to Chemical Ecology Michel Barbier QH541 .B2713
Development of Economically Stabilized Phosphogypsum Composites for Salt Water Application


A. Rusch

HD9585. P48 R87 2001
Waste Prevention Research Reports New York City, Bureau of Reuse and Recycling TD793.9. W378 2000
Moving Toward Sustainability Environmental Protection Agency EP1.2: W 28/53
The Substrate Suitability of Phosphogypsum Composites for Marine Habitat Enhancement Charles A. Wilson SH157 .85.A7 S83
Recycled Rubber, Aggregate, and Filler in Asphalt Paving Mixtures National Research Council, Transportation Research Board TE7.H5 NO.1530
Food, Fuel, and Fertilizer from Organic Wastes National Research Council, Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation TP995 .F66 1982
Garbage as You Like It: A Plan to Stop Pollution by using our Nation's Wastes Jerome Goldstein TD795.G6

Note: It takes about four times as much energy to make steel from virgin ore as it does to make the same steel from scrap.

What do those codes on the bottom of the container mean?

Code Description Properties Product Applications Products with Recycled Content

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE). PET is clear, tough, and has good gas and moisture barrier properties. Commonly used in soft drink bottles and many injection molded consumer product containers. Other applications include strapping and both food and non-food containers. Cleaned, recycled PET flakes and pellets are in great demand for spinning fiber for carpet yarns, producing fiberfill and geo-textiles. Nickname: Polyester Clarity, strength, toughness, barrier to gas and moisture, resistance to heat Plastic soft drink, water, sports drink, beer, mouthwash, catsup and salad dressing bottles. Peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars. Ovenable film and ovenable prepared food trays Fiber, tote bags, clothing, film and sheet, food and beverage containers, carpet, strapping, fleece wear, luggage and bottles.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE is used to make bottles for milk, juice, water and laundry products. Unpigmented bottles are translucent, have good barrier properties and stiffness, and are well suited to packaging products with a short shelf life such as milk. Because HDPE has good chemical resistance, it is used for packaging many household and industrial chemicals such as detergents and bleach. Pigmented HDPE bottles have better stress crack resistance than unpigmented HDPE bottles. Stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to chemicals and moisture, permeability to gas, ease of processing, and ease of forming. Milk, water, juice, cosmetic, shampoo, dish and laundry detergent bottles; yogurt and margarine tubs; cereal box liners; grocery, trash and retail bags. Liquid laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner and motor oil bottles; pipe, buckets, crates, flower pots, garden edging, film and sheet, recycling bins, benches, dog houses, plastic lumber, floor tiles, picnic tables, fencing.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC/Vinyl). In addition to its stable physical properties, PVC has good chemical resistance, weatherability, flow characteristics and stable electrical properties. The diverse slate of vinyl products can be broadly divided into rigid and flexible materials. Bottles and packaging sheet are major rigid markets, but it is also widely used in the construction market for pipes and fittings, siding, carpet backing and windows frames. Flexible vinyl is used in wire and cable insulation, film and sheet, floor coverings, synthetic leather products, blood bags, medical tubing and other applications. Versatility, clarity, ease of blending, strength, toughness, resistance to grease, oil and chemicals. Clear food and non-food packaging, medical tubing, wire and cable insulation, film and sheet, construction products such as pipes, fittings, siding, floor tiles, carpet backing and window frames. Packaging, loose-leaf binders, decking, paneling, gutters, mud flaps, film and sheet, floor tiles and mats, resilient flooring, cassette trays, electrical boxes, cables, traffic cones, garden hose, mobile home skirting.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE). Used predominately in film applications due to its toughness, flexibility and relative transparency, making it popular for use in applications where heat sealing is necessary. LDPE is also used to manufacture some flexible lids and bottles and it is used in wire and cable applications. Ease of processing, strength, toughness, flexibility, ease of sealing, barrier to moisture. Dry cleaning, bread and frozen food bags, squeezable bottles, e.g. honey, mustard. Shipping envelopes, garbage can liners, floor tile, furniture, film and sheet, compost bins, paneling, trash cans, landscape timber, lumber
Polypropylene (PP). Polypropylene has good chemical resistance, is strong, and has a high melting point making it good for hot-fill liquids. PP is found in flexible and rigid packaging to fibers and large molded parts for automotive and consumer products. Strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease and oil, versatile, barrier to moisture. Catsup bottles, yogurt containers and margarine tubs, medicine bottles Automobile battery cases, signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, oil funnels, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, sheeting, trays.
Polystyrene (PS). Polystyrene is a versatile plastic that can be rigid or foamed. General purpose polystyrene is clear, hard and brittle. It has a relatively low melting point. Typical applications include protective packaging, containers, lids, cups, bottles and trays. Versatility, insulation, clarity, easily formed Compact disc jackets, food service applications, grocery store meat trays, egg cartons, aspirin bottles, cups, plates, cutlery. Thermometers, light switch plates, thermal insulation, egg cartons, vents, desk trays, rulers, license plate frames, foam packing, foam plates, cups, utensils

Other. Use of this code indicates that the package in question is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin listed above, and used in a multi-layer combination. Dependent on resin or combination of resins. Three and five gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and catsup bottles. Bottles, plastic lumber applications.


Click here for additional information on codes.

Note: Using recycled glass lowers the melting temperature needed to make new glass, saving up to 32% of the energy needed for production.

Glass can be made transparent and flat, or into other shapes and colors. Photo of glass ball is from the Glass Studios of Bréhat in Brittany.

Note: In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight. If you add it up, this means that a 150-pound adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 pounds of trash.

A supplemental brochure provides patrons additional information on recycling realities.

Internet sites provide additional information about recycling, ecology, and pollution:

Florida Department of Environmental Protection http://www.floridadep.com/mainpage/default.htm
America Recycles http://www.americarecyclesday.org/
College and University Recycling Council (CURC) http://www.nrc-recycle.org/councils/CURC/
Recycler's World http://www.recycle.net/
Waste Prevention World http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/WPW/
Consumer Recycling Guide http://www.obviously.com/recycle/guides/common
Plastic (Recycling) Identification Codes http://www.americanplasticscouncil.org/s_apc/docs/1200/1101.pdf
National Recycling Economic Information Project


The Southern Waste Information Exchange http://www.swix.ws/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Municipal Solid Waste  http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/sourcred.htm
Recycled Products http://www.recycledproducts.com/?cid=4
Brevard County Solid Waste Management http://www.brevardcounty.us/swr/recycling.cfm

Patrons have the opportunity to provide their input on recycling by answering one of four questions. Answers are posted nearby and the patron is awarded with a pencil made of recycled currency. The four questions are:

  1. Why is recycling important?
  2. What ways have you noticed recycling occurring on the Florida Tech campus?
  3. How could the Florida Tech campus increase participation in the recycling effort?
  4. How do you personally participate in recycling efforts?

The realities of recycling have come down to one of two scenarios for our future:

Which would you prefer?

Special thanks to Pamela Shoemaker, Brevard County Solid Waste Management Department Recycling Coordinator, and Erin Leclair, Brevard County Solid Waste Management Special Projects Coordinator, for their time and generous contribution of artifacts for the display.

Source for above data available through above 'Internet Sites' listing.

This site is presented by the Florida Institute of Technology Evans Library Instructional Programs Team.


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