Reduce plastic beyond just bottles and bags
I know, I have written a lot about this topic, but the recycling situation is getting dire. I wrote about China’s end to the purchase of the majority of our plastic recyclables a few months ago. This had created utter chaos in the recycling system in the United States. Recyclables are building up with nowhere to go all over this country. It is happening here, and I’m afraid that unless major changes are made, most all of our plastic will end up in the landfill.
The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District has updated the guidelines on what plastics are accepted in curbside recycling programs. Plastic bottles and jugs are still accepted, which includes water bottles, shampoo bottles, milk, juice jugs and laundry detergent jugs. All of them need to be rinsed and emptied before being placed in recycling.
Here is where is gets confusing: The District's website reads, ”If it is not shaped like a bottle or jug, with an opening or neck that’s more narrow than the body, place it in regular trash.” This means that a plastic peanut butter jar is recyclable because the “neck” where the top screws on is slightly more narrow than the body. However, items that are no long recyclable are tubs. I’m using “tubs” to refer to the containers that hold sour cream, cream cheese, butter, dips, etc. All of those now need to be placed in the trash. The number stamped on the bottom does not indicate whether an item is recyclable.
I know, this is against everything you have been told the last 10-plus years. What can you do? Luckily, there are a few simple changes you can make to reduce the plastic in your life beyond just bringing your own bags to the store and using your own water bottle.
Consider purchasing, when possible, food and other items that are available in alternate containers. For example, you can purchase cream cheese in a bar form which uses no plastic. You can purchase butter in sticks rather than tubs. Consider purchasing bar soap instead of liquid soaps in plastic. Also, instead of purchasing pre-mixed sports drinks in plastic, purchase the powder form and mix your own in your own bottle. When buying kitty litter, buy the kind in the cardboard containers, not the plastic, as those are also not allowed to go into recycling but the cardboard ones can.
When choosing juices to purchase, purchase the ones in cartons, glass or cans and not the plastic. When shopping for eggs, avoid the plastic cartons and stick with the cardboard ones (avoid the Styrofoam cartons too). When shopping for lettuce, buy the whole head and place in a reusable produce bag instead of pre-washed packed in plastic; if you must purchase pre-washed, then choose the kind in the plastic bag rather than the harder plastic shells as those also must be placed in the trash. When purchasing soda, buy cans not plastic; there is no problem with the recycling market for aluminum. There are even shampoo and conditioner “bars” that are available at Lush and Amazon that don’t use any plastic.
These simple changes add up to a lot less plastic in your life and a lot less plastic ending up in the landfill. I urge you to do a plastic inventory of your life and I challenge you to find ways to reduce it. If you come up with other ideas on how to reduce plastic in your daily life, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.