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.
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.
“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:
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?
Egg cartons are desperately needed at food pantries. Second Harvest sends eggs in bulk. These must be repacked to arrive in homes unbroken. Check with your local pantry to see what they need.
McCafe uses plastic cups. I always ask for my drink to be put in a paper soda pop cup instead.
When ordering a drink, refuse the straw.
I emailed and asked Walmart to provide bagging options (paper, no bags) for grocery pickup.
I suggested from the start at my walmarts to use no bags. Instead require people being their own reusable, or boxes, something. Need to suggest it again..
I emailed the CEO of my favorite restaurant regarding their excessive straw use. I asked that they only bring straws if a customer asked. Now, they bring the straw wrapped in paper so they can offer it again when I don’t use it. Progress!!
I carry my Norwex stainless steel straws with me and refuse the straws at restaurants.
I would love it if Norwex would use foil refill pouches for their cleaning products. It would cut down on many plastic bottles when reordering.
I agree with this idea so much. I d get a dish detergent, that is 95% bio-based free of synthetic fragrances dyes or triclosan from a company that comes in pouches so I can refill a glass bottle. I get two refills out of each 32 oz bag – plus i can recycle the pouch withe company.
I buy meat at the butcher counter as they wrap in butcher paper instead of going to the meat in the case that usually is on plastic trays. I also received reusable silicone baggies from my son’s girlfriend for Christmas….I was thrilled and we use them all the time. Even small changes can make a huge difference.
Amy, thanks to you and all the others who’ve responded about the ways you are reducing plastic in your lives—and asking businesses to do so too! Together, we are making a difference!
A few weeks ago I asked for a cup of water instead of pop or tea (did not want caffeine or sugar at night). I was told they could not just do water in a cup but had to BUY a BOTTLE of water. I left without making my purchase. At this same fast food restaurant I asked for my coffee to be put own travel mug and was refused. They told me it was against the law (maybe against their policy but not the law!) I get frustrated when large fast food chains don’t cooperate with trying to make a difference.
What about cat litter? We use the single use plastic bags to scoop out the cat litter and put it in the garbage. How do we stop that? We cant scoop & flush because cat litter is to absorbent to go into the plumbing. Do you know of a better way?
There are compostable bags. They feel like a thin plastic but are biodegradable and break down in 2 months