About Plastics


Plastic has become a household staple for families and communities around the world.  Scientists estimate it takes somewhere between 450 -1,000 years to decompose (some argue it will never decompose), therefore it’s important to understand as much as we can about plastic and how it affects our environment.

Remember back when most items were packaged in cardboard, paper, aluminum and glass?  Why did we make the switch to plastic?   There were three main reasons:

  • Global transportation shipping costs
  • Safety – consistency and stability of products without risk of breaking
  • Profit

Unfortunately recycling plastic is a lot more complicated than other commodities because oftentimes it is combined with other materials (think plastic coated paper cups) in layers which makes the recycling process more difficult. Manufacturers use layers of material to give barrier properties, strength and storage stability to food items.  (Multilayered plastic png picture attached)

Plastic recycling is dictated by market demand, price determinations and local regulations.  Some plastics are more recyclable and more valuable than others. Also plastic loses its quality every time it’s recycled.  Plastics are simply polymers, long chains of atoms arranged in repeating units often much longer than those found in nature. The length of these chains, and the patterns in which they are arranged, are what make polymers strong, lightweight, and flexible. In other words, it’s what makes them so versatile.

There are 2 types of plastics: thermoset vs. thermoplastics. Thermoplastics are plastics that can be re-melted and re-molded into new products, and can be recycled. However, thermoset plastics contain polymers that cross-link to form an irreversible chemical bond meaning that no matter how much heat you apply, they cannot be remelted and are non-recyclable.

More information about plastics from everydayrecycler.com https://everydayrecycler.com/what-is-plastic/

Multilayered Plastic

Plastic Straws

The Last Straw small poster

Yakima County supports businesses and citizens who want to keep single-use plastic items out of our waste stream and landfills.  To encourage that effort, we are offering FREE educational materials (table tents and signage) for restaurants who want to add their support to the growing list of businesses who are being proactive about reducing plastic straw use.

 Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used every day in the United States.  These straws are usually used for just minutes before being dropped in the garbage can and living forever in a landfill.

You can help!

  • Ask your favorite restaurant to consider only providing straws to customers who request them.
  • Bring your own straw.  There are many reusable options available.
  • Use paper straws.  Paper straws are still disposable, but not a persistent environmental issue like plastic.

The Last Straw signage is available for download, or contact our office for a more durable card-stock option at no cost to you. 

Restaurant Letter

The Last Straw restaurant letter