Fourteen million tons. That’s how much plastic the U.S. created in 2010 alone, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.
Eight percent. That’s how much plastic the U.S. recycled in 2010.
It’s no secret that plastic plays an important role in nearly every aspect of our lives, from our food containers, to our furniture and even the device you’re reading this on right now. But perhaps equally important is what we do with plastic once we’re done using it.
Recycling plastic has a direct and significant impact on the environment. In fact, according to Keep America Beautiful, every pound of recycled plastic reduces energy use in plastic production by 84 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent. Recognizing the profound impact of recycling, a team of determined employees on Intel’s Chandler, Arizona campus put a plan into action.
The team developed the Grave to Cradle (G2C) pilot project, which turns leftover plastic from Intel’s manufacturing facilities into pencil boxes to benefit the local education community. Starting with plastic reels that originally held yards of computer chip components (similar to a movie reel), the G2C group collaborated with local organizations to remove the reels’ labels, grind them into small bits, and mold them into the pencil box shape.
After producing nearly 4,100 pencil boxes, volunteers from Arizona Science Lab and National Engineers Week filled them with school supplies, including a bookmark that describes how the pencil boxes were created and ways for students to incorporate sustainability into their own lives. The final pencil boxes were then donated to local schools in need.
The effort is funded through Intel’s Sustainability in Action grant program, where employees submit project ideas that foster environmental sustainability worldwide. In 2011, Intel provided $125,000 in funding for nine employee projects—including the installation of a rainwater harvesting project at a school in Israel, and design of a zero-emissions heating and cooling control and supply system for a local community building in China. Last month, I wrote about the Folsom Bee Project, where Intel employees installed five bee boxes in an effort to revive the local honeybee population.
Do you know about a program in your community that recycles leftover plastic into something new and usable? Tell us about it in the comments section!