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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Plastic bags overflowing with empty plastic bottles

I used to pride myself on my recycling efforts. I would compare my overflowing recycling bin with my neighbors and wish more people recycled. I felt it was our duty, responsibility, and obligation to protect our planet.

However, my recycling pride was deflated when I read a report from the Department of Energy that showed only 5% of plastics were recycled in 2019. A whopping 86% of plastics end up in landfills and the rest is burned to generate electricity. I finally realized that just because a product has a recycling arrow on it, does not mean it’s being recycled, especially if it is plastic.

So how do we reduce our plastic consumption? Let’s examine four common household purchases and see why plastic should be avoided.

1. Food: Paper Box Rather Than Plastic Cups
Sometimes, there is a hefty economic and environmental cost to convenience, like this example with macaroni and cheese. Turns out mac and cheese from the box is 17 cents/ounce, while the plastic cups cost 61 cents/ounce. Even worse, the consumer is left with four #5 plastic containers, which are one of the least recycled post-consumer plastics, at a rate below 1%. Compare this to paper and paperboard, which have a recycling rate of 68%.

Box of Mac N Cheese next to 4 plastic cups of Mac N Cheese

2. Fruit: Metal Cans Rather Than Plastic Cups
The cost difference between pears in a metal can and in plastic cups is negligible. However, the environmental cost is substantial. As mentioned above, #5 plastic has a recycling rate of less than 1% while the recycling rate for steel cans is 71%. Of course, fresh pears are package free. To have the smallest environmental impact possible, shop with reusable produce and grocery bags, then throw the pear core in a compost bin.

A metal can of pears next to pre-packaged cups of pears

3. Soda Pop: Cans Rather Than Bottles
There is little cost difference between pop cans and bottles. But once again, the environmental difference is noteworthy. Aluminum cans are the most recycled category of aluminum at 50%, compared to the recycling rate of #1 plastics which is 29%.

Aluminum can of Diet Mountain Dew next to a plastic bottle of Diet Mountain Dew

4. Soap: Bar Rather Than Liquid
Again, the cost between bar and liquid soap is minimal, so let’s compare the packaging. Soap bars are often packaged in paper, which have a recycling rate of 68% while liquid soap is often packaged in #2 plastic containers, which have a recycling rate of 29%. This information also applies to laundry detergent. If you are looking to avoid the large, #2 plastic jugs of laundry soap, consider plastic-free laundry powder, bars, tablets, or sheets.

Body wash in a plastic bottle next to 6 bards of soap

Stay Informed
The dos and don’ts of recycling changes frequently. Stay up to date on what you can recycle curbside and look for additional opportunities to recycle in your community, through zero-waste organizations or your solid waste district.

Final Thoughts
As summer winds down, it’s a great time to start planning waste-free lunches for your kids. The goal is similar: reduce waste and reliance on convenient, single-use, hard-to-recycle items. The next time you are at the store, reach for the apple sauce in the glass jar rather than the plastic one. Mother Earth will thank you.

Note: Item descriptions, prices, and photos were retrieved by the author at a local grocery store that is affiliated with a national supermarket chain on 7/18/2022.

For more information about plastic and recycling, visit:

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Warren County. Email: stanton.60@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Courtney Warman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Program Specialist, Healthy Finances. Email: warman.44@osu.edu

Photo Credits: Cover image by rawpixel.com. All other photos by Laura M. Stanton, 2022.

References:

Bollas, B. (2021). Reducing your single-use plastic waste. Ohio State University Extension. https://fcs.osu.edu/sites/fcs/files/imce/PDFs/Single_Use_Plastics.pdf

Leblanc, R. (2019, May 9). An overview of polypropylene recycling. The Balance Small Business. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/an-overview-of-polypropylene-recycling-2877863

Milbrandt, A., Coney, K., Badgett, A., and Beckham, G. (2022). Quantification and evaluation of plastic waste in the United States. Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Volume 183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106363

Stanton, L. M. (2021). Ten tips for packing waste-free lunches. Ohio State University Extension. https://go.osu.edu/waste-free-lunches

Stanton, L. M. (2021). How to pack waste-free lunches. Ohio State University Extension. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv_zyW-WzZY

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, November 15). Ten ways to unpackage your life. https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/ten-ways-unpackage-your-life

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022, July 9). Facts and figures about materials, waste, and recycling. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling

Woelfl, C. (2021, June 7). Our plastic problem. Ohio State University Extension. https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/06/07/our-plastic-problem

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jeans

It’s always great to see folks celebrate Earth Day! While April 22nd is reserved as the official celebration, there are lots of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle all year long.

One area that might not come to mind right away is your closet. Did you know that in 2018, over 11 million tons of textile materials ended up in the landfill? Discarded clothing is the primary textile in this municipal solid waste stream, though footwear, sheets, blankets, towels, carpeting, and furniture textiles are also included in the category of solid waste. In total, textile materials account for nearly 8% of all landfill material.

According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. Only 15% of used textiles are recycled, while 85% go to the landfill.

If you want to set a goal this year to minimize your textile waste, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Reduce. Choose not to purchase new clothes and items that you don’t really need. Consider shopping at secondhand stores when you do need to purchase new clothes.
  2. Reuse. If there are clothes or other textiles in your closet, dresser, or house that are in good condition but no longer fit or that you no longer wear, donate them to a local cause or sell them to a secondhand store.
  3. Recycle. If there are clothes in your closet or items in your house that are not in good enough condition to sell or donate (e.g., clothing or other garments with holes, tears, stains, or significant wear), look for a textile recycling option near you. Some retail stores and clothing brands offer textile recycling in-store or online, and some donation centers will accept unusable items for recycling. Depending on their condition, recycled textiles may be repurposed as secondhand clothing, converted into materials such as wiping rags, or broken down into fiber for home insulation, carpet padding and more.

Whether you choose to reduce your clothing purchases or sell, donate, or recycle your used clothing, minimizing textile waste is a goal we can all work toward in 2022!

Sources:

Council for Textile Recycling. The Lifecycle of Secondhand Clothing. https://www.weardonaterecycle.org/images/clothing-life-cycle.png

Harmony Enterprises, Inc. The facts about textile waste. https://harmony1.com/textile-waste-infographic/

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2021). Textiles: Material-Specific Data. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County

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Green Santa eating cookies

Waste is becoming a bigger challenge than ever before. The average American produces over 4.6 pounds of waste every day. Around 251 million tons of trash are produced every year and 1/3 of all trash is recycled. Plastic and garbage gets into watersheds, winds up on beaches, is consumed by sea life, and eventually goes into our food supply. Trash is found increasingly in national parks, scenic rivers, and in our communities.

Normally, when we take our trash out to the curb, some of it doesn’t even make it to the landfills, but gets blown away and winds up in storm drains and eventually rivers, oceans and beaches. Trash that makes it to landfills has its own set of problems. Most trash takes years to decompose and landfills need to be maintained for 30 years after they are full.

Waste increases 75% during the holidays. Major source of waste include wrapping paper, cards, gift packaging, and broken lights. Many gifts, from jewelry to electronics, use a lot of resources to produce . New electronics and toys replace the old which wind up in landfills.

We can all become green Santas by reducing, recycling and reusing this holiday season. Here are some tips for gifts…

  • Secondhand gifts- Consider shopping at secondhand stores such as goodwill for gifts. Anything in good condition can become a gift. Young children and baby toys especially can be cleaned and gifted.
  • Minimally packaged gifts- Most packaging can’t be recycled.
  • Durable gifts- Do some research on quality and durability when it comes to gifts. Sometimes the more expensive TV set will be the one that lasts longer.
  • Non-physical gifts- Gifts of time and service are special. Offer to baby sit, take someone out to dinner, buy zoo passes, museum passes, dance classes, scuba diving lessons, hot air balloon rides, etc.
  • Charitable gifts- Give money to a college endowment, red cross, etc. in someone’s name.
  • Waste reducing gifts- Gifts such as nice coffee mugs, reusable water bottles, metal straws, mesh produce bags, school lunch boxes, wool dryer balls, Tupperware, cloth napkins, bamboo utensils, reusable dish rags, insulated bags, brew your own k pods (for Keurig) will all reduce the need for disposable products.
  • Make your own gifts- Make sock puppets, boxes with different clothing items (make-up kits) for kids, crafts, etc.

Recycle and reuse as much as possible during the holidays. Lights can be recycled at places like Lowes, and wrapping paper can reused. Some people use cloth for wrapping paper. Gift bags can also be reused as well.

All of these actions, although small individually, can make a big difference collectively in terms of reducing trash, protecting natural resources and even mitigating climate change. Hope there is much green in your Holidays!

Sources:

Money Crashers https://www.moneycrashers.com/green-eco-friendly-gift-ideas-holidays/ Accessed on 12/10/2019

How Stuff Works https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/recycling-reality1.htm Accessed on 12/10/19

World Wildlife Fund https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/how-does-plastic-end-ocean Accessed on 12/10/19

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, OSU Extension, Wood County

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