Once again, it has been far too long since I have added anything of note to these pages. Instead of writing, I have been doing lots of research over the last many months – research that I hope to share with you in the weeks and months ahead.
My first dive into the research was to have an extended conversation with one of the, "Zero Waste Experts" (an official job title) affiliated with the company that handles recycling and garbage in the city in which I live. I asked a lot of questions, and here is some of what I learned:
First, and probably most importantly, I learned that it is really easy and worthwhile to speak with your local waste management company, and to ask questions that might help you clarify how you recycle, what you recycle, and “what goes where.” It is definitely worth picking up the phone – I highly recommend it!
All plastic bags are very difficult to recycle. Because the plastic in them is so thin, it is not cost effective to recycle them and, therefore, most municipalities do not take them for recycling. In addition, they can get wrapped around the recycling equipment and cause equipment failures. My municipality does not accept plastic bags for recycling – so I try very hard to avoid using them. I am grateful that with newer understandings of Covid-19 and how it is spread, I can once again bring my own produce bags, shopping bags, etc. when I go to the market.
Black plastic is not recyclable in almost every municipality. The machines can’t see it, and it therefore causes blockages. Try to avoid black plastic as much as possible!
Plastic clamshells are not accepted by my municipality, because the process that goes into making the clamshells leads to a very brittle plastic that has little recycling value. They are very difficult to recycle and therefore not cost effective. This may be the case in your municipality as well – be sure to check and find out.
Bottle tops and lids are recycled in my municipality! You can even screw them back onto the container – there are machines that can separate them. Be sure to check on the recyclability of bottle tops and lids where you live, however, as not every municipality recycles these items.
What you should not do is put dirty stuff in your recycling bin. Wipe containers out with a paper towel, or even better, run empties through your dishwasher. (I have just started doing this – easy as pie, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.) In this way, you do not waste water and you ensure that only clean items go into your recycling bin. This is important, because Items with lots of food waste can contaminate an entire bin, and thus send the whole bin-full to landfill instead of to recycling.
Finally, I learned that in my municipality, items that are recyclable are actually really and truly recycled. Our local recycling goes to a plant that turns our recyclable plastics into building materials, etc. The plant is here in CA and not overly far from where I live. It is important to know where your recycling goes because, due to changes in the way that China, and other countries are handling/accepting our recycling, it could be that much of what you think you are recycling actually winds up in landfill or being incinerated. Both of these disposal methods are environmentally hazardous. If you find out that your recycling is not actually being recycled as you believe, try to work even harder to cut down on your use and purchase of plastics.
Best of all? There will be a proposition on the California ballot in 2022 that will require plastic manufacturers to ensure that all of their plastic products are recyclable! https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Anti-plastic-waste-ballot-initiative-approved-for-16325589.php When the time comes – go out and vote!
In peace and blessing,