Make a Difference: Recycle All You Can
In today's economy, with our state needing as much job creation as possible, North Carolinians need look no further than their trash cans.
If you take a peek and spot a plastic bottle, quick, pull it out and put it in the recycling bin instead -- that bottle equals somebody's job.
If there is one bright spot in the current recession, it is the steady announcement of new recycling facilities across the state.
The latest is the building of one of the world's largest plastic bottle recycling plants in Fayetteville, which will need a whopping five billion water and soda bottles to make polyester resin.
This announcement is on the heels of the opening of another plant in South Carolina that will recycle 130 million pounds of soda bottle plastic (PET or No. 1 plastic).
You may ask: Why should we care about that plant? It's not creating jobs on our side of the border.
Actually, that facility, which attracted a $60 million investment from Coca-Cola, is supplying recycled resin to a manufacturer in Cleveland County that turns that resin back into new bottles.
In other words, the recycling loop for soda bottles gets closed right here in the Tar Heel state.
Manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to recycled materials as their primary resource.
They see a strategic need to hedge against resource scarcity and rising energy costs over time.
Recycled feedstocks are cheaper, require much less electricity and natural gas to process, and are often available in closer proximity than virgin materials.
Shaw Industries, one of the largest carpet manufacturers in the world and a co-owner of the new facility in Fayetteville, can now get the materials it needs to make new carpet from the curbside bin at the house next door instead of petroleum well-heads in the Middle East.
This presents a challenge to every North Carolinian who ever emptied a plastic bottle. We each have a choice -- to get with the program and give the material back to industry, or bury it in a hole in the ground where it will be unavailable for any use ever.
So far we've been making the wrong choice more often than not.
Our recycling rate for plastic bottles is less than 20 percent statewide, leaving much room for improvement.
But back in 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly saw this day coming, when the possibility of large-scale economic development and new jobs would rest on getting bottles out of the trash.
A law banning the disposal of plastic bottles takes effect this year on Oct. 1, compelling us to do what only makes common sense -- stop throwing valuable materials away. Now the economic stakes of that ban are more important than ever.
Manufacturers have shown faith that North Carolinians will make the right choice when it comes to their discarded materials.
We can all honor that faith -- and capture the potential to grow our state's economy in one of the worst recessions in decades -- by taking care in where we toss that empty bottle.
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