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Recycle Right... how much plastic do we really need?

Last week students focused on managing organic matter “waste.”  This week we focused on what to do with the rest. Paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass… that’s easy.  Plastic… not so easy.

Plastics that were once recycled are now headed to the landfill. There is no longer a market for much of the plastic that is now generated. What plastics can be recycled at your home/office/school in Mecklenburg County now?  Only bottles! Think things with necks. Nothing else.

We have all “wishcycled”, putting something in the recycling that we hope will be turned into something useful. We feel better about putting it there than in the trash.  I admit, I’ve done it in the past when I wasn’t so sure what plastics were acceptable. This actually causes problems for the facilities that are handling the recycling. However now it is very clear, only bottles. YIKES! Manufactures sure like to use plastic in packaging… but they are not held responsible for what happens on the back end of what they produce.

Yes, this is a bummer.  But what can we do? We actually have a lot of choice points.  This week, students had great discussions on this. How can we incorporate these simple choices into our own lifestyle?

1. Good News!  Harris Teeter and a few other stores collect plastic film packing, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), which can be turned into composite decking.  Examples are: Bags for dry cleaning, newspapers, bread, frozen foods, fresh produce, and household garbage; shrink wrap and stretch film. If the packaging is dirty, it needs to be rinsed. 

- choice point, knowing that this type of packaging can be recycled, choose food in this type of packaging rather than plastic clamshells which can not be recycled. 

2. Glass an option?  Salsa for example comes in both plastic and glass.  Go for the glass! Begin to notice the packing that your food comes in… is there a glass, metal, or paper option?

3. Better yet…. no packaging!  Check out the farmers market, you can by all kinds of fresh produce without packaging.  

- If you are shopping at the store, don’t go for the plastic bag or bring reusable bags.  

- Yes, the lettuce and spinach prewashed is so easy and convenient, but the

container is pretty much one-use packaging and can not be recycled.  Choice point: purchase your leafy greens without containers. Whole Foods even has spinach bound in a twist tye.

Just pick one thing, and make that change in your purchasing habits, then pick another.  Overtime, this equates to a lot less materials that go to the landfill.  

Many people taking small actions create big change.  It’s good for you and good for the earth.

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