Sunday, August 17, 2008

What about recycling?

plastic is forever

I get this a lot...'yes plastic is bad but we can recycle it right?'. My answers are yes, no, and you don't!


Yes, there are many plastics you can recycle (in theory). Those little numbers 1-7 on the bottom of containers for example. Yes, go for it, please recycle those! These numbers are found on many hard plastics food containers...but what about all the plastic wrappers and ALL those plastics without a number. You can't recycle those! (That is what I have heard and read, if you know different let me know!)

So, no you can't recycle all plastics in fact there is A LOT of plastic that you can't recycle even if you want to. For example: plastic wrap, chip bags, three ring binders, the mouse of your computer, toys, the wrappers toys come in, buttons, elastic bands, the sole of your shoe...need I go on?

And, well you don't. Really, truly, we just don't (yes, even I don't/haven't). When you are out and about and you buy something do you put that recyclable plastic in your purse and bring it home with you to your recycling bin...do you have a recycling bin at home? Yes I do for the most part, but then again I have to keep all the plastic I use (it's part of the plastic diet after all--keep all the plastic you use to see how much you accumulate in one year). But just to illustrate the point Americans alone consume 70 million plastic water bottles a year and only 10 million get recycled! That means 60 million plastic water bottles are in landfills or the ocean...
So think about it. Think long and hard. The recycling system can be a good thing, but you have to use the system for it to work and you have to know the system is far from perfect. A recycled plastic bottle is not reincarnated into another identical plastic bottle...it may become a fleece vest and then that fleece vest may get used for years but eventually thrown away. Something is always lost in the process and there are transportation costs (i.e. petroleum products) and water used in the recycling process as well.
End of story, this is why Kerry and I decided to start our plastic diet. We need to cut back and be more aware of our plastic consumption because just recycling is not the answer. If that worked there would be no Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

9 comments:

JMcK said...

I am OBSESSED with this blog. OBSESSED. I think this is an amazing idea and really want to try it myself. Though the idea of just 1 piece of plastic per day is super hard for me. I'm still in the "observing all the plastic" phase. I like the war, though. I may very soon have to join. One question: do either of you have pets? I have 2 cats. Although I love reusable grocery bags, I also love using plastic ones for my feline waste removal. Do you have thoughts about this? Of course, plastic is forever, but I AM reusing them. Also, I am not sure I can afford cloth bags every time I clean their litter. Paper might be a biodegradabe option but I'm not convinced of its sturdiness and let's face it -- this is a situation in which it's important to be sturdy. What about other garbage bags? Do you continue to use those?

plasticfreela said...

I'm glad you are thinking of joining the fight! The observation phase is a very very important phase so take the time you need to gather your arsenal and strength for the fight.
My thoughts about the kitty litter issues...what if you used the same plastic bag over and over again to remove the litter to a more sturdy or far away place. So scup into the plastic bag then dump out the litter into a larger trash disposal area…like outside. Then you just use one plastic bag repeatedly for a while...
I don't have a cat, but have sympathy for the feline waste removal process so I understand your concern...I will have to think on it more.
Also, I mostly use paper bags for my garbage (the occasional plastic one if I accidentally picked one up somewhere)...if you compost or use a kitchen disposal most of the slimy stuff goes in there so paper bags work fine for trash (there is of course problems sometimes but, hey no one said life would be easy). I have never bought garbage bags in my life. I grew up reusing grocery bags for trash and continue to do so to this day. Good luck and keep reading!

plasticfreenyc said...

thanks jessica!
erin and i observed our plastic for a month or 2 before we started really plastic dieting.

not sure about kitty litter.. i don't have any pets.
i did some searching and this seems to be the bane of several plastic dieters' existence.

i did find these biobags for dogs though:
http://www.reusablebags.com/store/biobag™-waste-bags-p-1135.html

hmm i just had another idea.. at the whole foods in New York they have a recycling kiosk for plastic bags near the exit. you could always grab some from there to use for kitty litter.

i'll let you know if i come up with anything else!

plasticfreenyc said...

also, check this out.. homemade kitty litter!
http://alliesanswers.com/tip-of-the-day/tip-of-the-day-make-your-own-kitty-litter/1044

plasticfreela said...

Also check out this page on environmental kitty litter, disposal, etc.
http://www.petsfortheenvironment.org/blog/2008/08/15/cleos_picks_of_the_litter_box

plasticfreela said...

oops the site is after blog/ type in:
2008/08/15/cleos_picks_of_the_litter_box

JMcK said...

you guys are the best! thanks for your concern. I think switching to paper might work. I do live in an apartment, and I usually take the litter (in a plastic bag) to the garbage chute. I think I can do this in a paper bag but I have concerns about adequately closing it. I don't compost given the apartment living -- there's just really nowhere for me to put my compost (i have no garden or yard of any kind). But I like the reusing recylable bags idea because that way I don't have to actually accept new plastic myself. thanks!!

twitchy-giraffe said...

Depending on where you live, part of what you said is incorrect... Technically, any thin, flexible plastic is classified as "film," and is a #4 plastic. If your local recycling facility accepts grocery bags, it should also accept everything from potato chip bags (these are actually made from plastic, not foil) to plastic cling-wrap (if washed). It's important to realize that most food wrappers no longer contain either paper or foil. Granola bar or chocolate wrappers, even though they may look otherwise, are almost always plastic. Foil wrappers are virtually non existent nowadays. Of course, plastic film is one of the most difficult plastics to recycle, and it all gets shipped to China...

plasticfreenyc said...

thanks for this info, twitchy giraffe! i'm happy to admit, i have a lot to learn about recycling. i have a non-scientific rule of thumb about plasticy looking things.

if i'm not sure if it's plastic i ask myself 2 questions:
1. does this look like it will be around forever?
2. could a seaturtle choke on this?

the answer is YES for most food wrappers/foils/etc so i try my best to avoid them!