How Pushy Are You About Plastic?
Have you ever thought about the recycling process? If you’re like me, you probably assumed that a local facility takes all our paper, plastic and aluminum and transforms it into something useful—like a paper towel, buddy bench or soda can. While that is sometimes the case, it’s not the norm.
Here’s the Scoop
The reality is that, for decades, some 70% of the world’s plastic waste was sent to China to be recycled, where there was a big market for the raw materials. In 2016 alone, China imported more than 7 million tons of materials.
But sadly a lot of that imported trash wasn’t actually recyclable, and it was simply dumped, left to pollute the landscape and waterways. So by 2018 China had had enough of that garbage and officially banned all imports. The result? Now, much of our own plastic waste is going to our local landfills or incinerators instead. And because we are such a convenience-driven, disposable-dependent culture, it’s an ever-growing problem with no clear solutions.
What about Recycling?
“Wait, what?” you say, “You mean there’s no more recycling?” No, there are still plenty of local recycling companies around. They are just increasingly inundated with materials that no one seems to want. Plus, they get a lot of materials that aren’t really recyclable at all.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for all of us to be aware and make those small, conscious choices that can add up to a big impact. The goal is two-fold: to send only the right kinds of materials to be recycled and to cut back on as much overall waste as possible.
Here are just six things we can do now:
- Know what kinds of materials your community accepts for recycling. According to Thoughtco.com, “To effectively recycle plastic items, you need to know two things: the plastic number of the material, and which of these types of plastics your municipality’s recycling service accepts. Many facilities now accept #1 through #7 but check with them first to make sure.”
- Better yet, recycle only as a last resort. Instead, refuse, reduce, reuse and/or repurpose first, before recycling. For example, by reusing a glass or aluminum water bottle, you could save an estimated 156 plastic bottles a year from going to overcrowded landfills or recycling centers.
- Replace plastic bags with reusable ones. The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, each of which takes around 500 years to degrade in landfill.
- Purchase and use items made from recycled products, like microfiber made from recycled materials, pencils made from old blue jeans and athletic shoes made from ocean trash.
- Save and reuse packaging, colored paper, egg cartons and other items to use for projects with your children. We love these earth-friendly arts and crafts ideas from SafeStars.org.
- Get a little pushy. There’s a grassroots movement afoot by concerned consumers who are demanding less plastic where they shop, stay and eat. And big business is starting to listen. For example, say you’re at a hotel that provides beverages, soaps or shampoos bottled in plastic. You could simply ask for better options using these “words to say” from cnn.com: “I’d like an alternative to what you’ve given me because I’m trying to reduce my single-use plastic footprint.” How very empowering!
Why so much plastic packaging?
Ever noticed how much plastic all our stuff comes wrapped in? Ever wonder why? The truth is, businesses aren’t usually held responsible for what happens to the packaging after we consumers have made our purchases. Not in North America, anyway. Currently, the responsibility of proper disposal is on us.
But what if that changed? What if businesses were held more accountable for the impact of their packaging on our environment? What if they started to realize that reusable packaging offers bottom-line benefits in addition to environmental ones? And what if, at the same time, consumers got a little pushier? I can be a little pushy sometimes; how about you?
Have you ever asked a business to provide more earth-friendly options? We’d love to hear about it—just drop us a line in the comments below. And remember, if you’re not already a Norwex Movement member, we’d love for you to join us today! Together, we’re making small, conscious choices to make our homes and our world a little bit better.
Could you see yourself pushing for less plastic?