*This is part of a summer blog series written by an anonymous member of our alumni community. The opinions expressed here are independent of GREEN Program and do not necessary represent the views of our organization.*
A lyric a 2019, eco-friendly Shania Twain would soothly sing into a mic:
“Oh, so you recycle… That don’t impress me much. Yeah ya, got the green but do ya, got the eco-toouuch”
What if i told you, only 9% of plastic packaging ACTUALLY gets recycled. Would you say, ‘but I’m doing my part! I put my stuff in my green or blue bins like a good little eco-conscious human!’ While I appreciate the effort, eco-nerding and saving the planet is a team thing and we’re only as strong as our weakest link. You, my reader, may actually be our weakest link and to no fault of your own. There has been a systematic failure and oversight when it comes to educating about the environment [FACTS]. The thought of recycling was there in schools, but there wasn’t any direction on what, where, and how I could actually recycle.
Well I am here to give you the ‘what’s good’ on recycling:
Read the numbers underneath the plastics
- Plastics are broken down by number. These numbers give us the Betty Crocker recipe as to what the plastics are actually made of i.e. PETE stands for polyethylene terephthalate and is what most water bottles made of. PETE = easy to recycle.
- A whole breakdown of these plastics are here if you wanna educate yourself.
- Since the plastic ban from China, some municipalities in the US have actually stopped collecting plastics 3-7 because they are too expensive or too hard to recycle with their current means of recycling. Do your do-diligence and check what can actually be recycled in your area here.
Clean your plastics
- This is one thing I NEVER knew about until earlier this year. They can’t recycle your bottle of ranch or sriracha if it still has remnants of stuff in the bottle. Take the time to rinse out that bottle (it seriously takes less than a minute, if you can’t spare the 45 seconds then you deserve to eat your salads dry).
- This goes for food scraps and other oils in any food container you may have too. Take the little amount of time to rinse those bad boys out before emphatically throwing them in the recycle bin.
- Throw grocery bags STRAIGHT in the garbage. These plastics are like headphones in your pocket when they pass through a recycling sorter. They get caught, jammed, twisted, tangled, and create one hell of an ordeal. Throw them straight away and buy yourself a reusable bag.
- Break down your cardboard before you toss it away. It leaves more room in your can and makes it easier to manage on the recycling side.
- Throw away your pizza boxes or any other food stained cardboard box. 1. That shit is gross, especially if you’re one of those pineapples on pizza humans and 2. They are actually not recyclable. Any food reminisce or oils on cardboard will cause that entire area of cardboard to be trashed in the sorting process.
Other Recycling Do’s and Don’ts
- Hard yes. Save the trees, baby!
- Hard no. Shredded paper is too small to do anything meaningful with and just creates a mess at the warehouses.
- Also hard no. Hazardous material watch!
Glass jars and other glass
- Hard yes. ~Gently~ lie that down into your recycling bin.
- This one is tricky. Read the bottom of the cup. Some of these bad boys have a plastic lining (in order to keep your drink from soaking through, which is nice). These cups need to go to a different area in the facility to strip the plastic layer out before recycling the paper portion. (In reality, just get yourself a reusable cup from Starbucks or Dunkin.. They’re so much nicer anyway..)
One company doing recycling right:
BioCellection (2019 Rolex Award Winner for Enterprise) has been doing a bunch of research and implementation to take plastic waste and turn it into resources for sustainable supply chain. Check out their super cool website here.