WHY AREN’T WE RECYCLING PLASTIC BAGS?

Have you ever even seen a special bin for just plastic bags at the recycle? Ne neither. and yet, this is why the whole thing is screwed up.

First of all, 2019 is the year of the wake up call for human beings. Our big, beautiful planet needs us to take care of it. Sooner, not later. I’m not waiting for others to decide IF we have a problem and then be disappointed by teensie effort put into place; only to be obliterated by political grandstanding. I don’t know about you, but I am more than alarmed at learning about the oceans and waterways teeming with plastic pollution that has sucked the oxygen from the water. Some parts of the Pacific Ocean have lost 40% of its oxygen, sea creatures are migrating in a panic. Loss of life and entire species are eminent.

Deforestation for the sake of development means just one will benefit monetarily at the expense of human life, wiping out oxygen source for many.  It takes 80 trees to supply the oxygen for ONE human being.  Smog. Fracking. Extreme weather, you’ve heard it all before. These are consequences from what humans have done. No bullshit, just facts.

You see them flying around the roadways and hanging from trees. Plastic film is everywhere and this is not good.

Americans use 14 billion bags every year. Though it’s unclear how many are mixed in with curbside recycling, it’s not unusual for general recycling operations to shut down several times a day due to the catastrophe the bags cause, said John Hambrose, communications manager at Waste Management Inc., one of the largest sanitation companies in the U.S.

Guess what? One-time use plastic shopping bags ARE very recyclable. But if you think you can toss them in with the bottles, cans or cartons in your recycling bin, there is good news and bad news.

Recycling plant employees must remove tangled bags by hand and put them in a pile to be sent to a landfill. The machinery is expensive and takes highly skilled technicians to understand how to operate and maintain them.

Although plastic bags are made of a highly valuable and recyclable material, they are not being processed and separated from the rest of your recycled materials at many Materials Recovery Facilities (aka. a recycling plant). Most of these facilities use several machines that can sift through tons of trash material. Because plastic bags are extremely pliable, they frequently wrap themselves around the gears and rotors in the plant and slow down or even completely stop the processing of other recycled materials. Someone has to stop the machine, get out there and unclog it before it can resume operation. This is costly and time consuming. Many places just end up burning everything in the landfill. It is understandable as to why people have become frustrated about recycling.

If you are already collecting your bags, glass, paper, metals, and other plastic containers, good for you! You’re halfway there! These collected bags must then be brought to your local Post-Consumer Recycling in order to be processed properly. Plastic film (as it is categorized in the industry) is highly valuable when collected separately, and is recycled to make things like park benches, porch decks, fences,

 Plastic film includes plastic bread bags, grocery store bags, small plastic “baggies”, plastic cling wrap, or the plastics your newspapers arrive in, grocery bags, bread bags, case overwrap, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, wood pellet bags, ziplock & other re-sealable bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, salt bags, and cereal bags.

As with all recycling materials, plastic film must be perfectly clean, dry and free of any waste or food residue on them.

Some of our local grocery store may now be participating in plastic film recycling. I only recently discovered this and I have been recycling my plastic bags at the local transfer station for years. None of these stores do a very good job at promoting recycling so please feel free to get over there and ask the store manager how you can help them encourage and promote more recycling. Get those plastic bags back in the store.

Please go to the Plastic Film Recycling Programs page for communities, corporations, businesses, and single consumers and type in your zip code.

There are also companies you can contact that are dedicated to helping with public education and preserving the environment.

The American Disposal Service, a recycled plastics wholesaler has locations in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and Colorado, will set up plastic bag recycling stations in order to collect these materials.

One of the largest plastic film recyclers in the U.S., Trex saves 400 million pounds of plastic film and wood from landfills each year. So in addition to contributing to a healthier environment, purchase of their eco-friendly recycled decking leads us to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide..  Learn about Trex and the LEED Green Building Rating System.

Learn more about companies that use recycled plastics at PlasticsMarkets.org connects suppliers and buyers of all types of scrap plastic (from bales to post consumer resin). It’s supported by the plastics industry and intended for awareness and use by the recycling industry in North America.

Advertisements

RECYCLE CLAMSHELLS AND HELP SAVE THE OCEAN

When I think of all the hours that are spent looking at stupid stuff on screens instead of paying closer attention to the real world, the one we take for granted; trees, nature, water, and air, I wonder, “why is this happening?” All it would take would be a little (okay, a whole lot of!) people with passion and energy to make a difference. Wouldn’t it? It seems as if we humans have been stuck in a passive inertia vortex for too long, one that allows the problems to heap up and mount ever higher. We are drowning in our own discordance with nature.

Ignoring the “real world” is to ignore life’s positive energy, the tremendous gift of will to live, one that flows from the universe bringing us health, happiness, and vitality. To me, that is what Sustainably is. Want to feel better about this? Well, now you can. One lettuce box at a time.

We have the wherewithal to collectively implant earth-friendly habits. So let’s do something about the tsunami of plastic pollution. Together we are a force. Alone…not so much.

I chose clamshells for a number of reasons. First of all, I happen to like clams, those bivalve mollusks roaming the ocean floor are not only tasty but are also an amazingly resilient creature. Environmental benefits of living clams are many, including a single littleneck-sized clam can filter 4.5 gallons of seawater per day.

Clamshell packaging…not so much.

Sadly, plastic manufacturing companies continue to foist unscrupulous products upon consumers worldwide. Those indestructible clear plastic containers are used for everything and anything shipped, stored, or sold are literally entombing the “real world”, you know, the one that has been drowning in chemicals, toxins, and plastic waste for the last 100 years.

In a recent report from What They Think, Labels Packaging and News, the economy of plastic clamshells is positioned for tremendous growth in the coming years. A few plastic manufacturing companies have responsible sustainability on their agendas, working very hard to find ways to control environmental “One Use” waste. But, these businesses are held accountable by shareholders and special interest groups and must remain focused on the sole purpose of increasing their revenues. At the expense of the environment.

The environment that belongs to ALL of us.  

I will be building on this blog topic over a period of time. It’s a huge subject, so if I omit a thread it is because my brain is exploding with this. If you are interested in contributing, I invite you to help by edification and bringing your good ideas (solutions!) to the forum.

Although I intend to keep plugging away as often as I can, please do sign up for my newsletter and spread the word. Many organizations are waaaay ahead of me on facts and actions for cleanup and community involvement. Check out: The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce),  is a great jumping off place. Another organization has been deep-diving into sustainable plastic control in a global way. Check out the Plastic Disclosure Project.  

I have spent months of research looking into the reason on why plastic clamshell containers are not accepted at the recycling station. Our biggest trashcan, the fourth largest country in the world, CHINA, is full, and will not accept our rubbish. We send out heaping barges of trash to wander the great oceans without a place to dump.

The scourge of plastic clamshell containers in our landfills is something that we can and should do something about. While most of them are now made from either PET#1, accepted as the highest standard of recyclable plastic, or PLA, which is supposed to be compostable substance made from corn, neither of these are getting recycled fully.

I apologize in advance for the oncoming lecture, but I am after all addressing life and death. There are rubbish piles larger than the state of Texas in our oceans and all sea-life suffers. Dolphins are found frantically swimming around with plastic bags wrapped around their beaks. This is heartbreaking to think about, and yet our oceans are dying from something we humans created.

We’ve got to clean up this crap.

Fish we can no longer eat and disappearing wildlife are the canary in the goldmine. We have to do better. We are smarter than this.

For some strange reason, “the environment” has become a hot political topic and nothing much gets done, and sometimes, things even get undone. Hello?? Raise your hand if you want to live on an unpolluted planet. Last time I checked, oxygen is still free. Let’s keep moving toward changing our activities and habits, shall we?

Out of the 7.53 billion human beings, some of us will make a difference. You know the drill, you’ve heard it all before. Blah blah blah. Apathy. Inertia. If you just look outside for a minute you will see: it’s time to act. Our beloved earth will not be able to support life as we know it.

But it’s too BIG of a problem, you might say. That’s why we need to be like ants, and it will take most of us to fix it.

The proliferation of plastic waste is staggering. Look out the window. It is everywhere. You cannot go anywhere without seeing plastic trash blowing around. Absolutely everything sold in stores nowadays is wrapped or sealed in such a way as to protect and preserve it, allowing shipping and handling with little or no damage. The convenience of straws and cutlery, cups and containers can easily be stopped if we want it to. (Hey, did you remember to bring your own bag to the store?

Are you shopping local instead of the big box store? Do you re-use your plastic bags? I know, taking a small step toward solving a big problem can seem daunting when so few seem to be in step. Join me in learning how to make “PLARN” out of plastic and weave reusable grocery bags.

We may not stop the manufacturers but we can stop buying things that are wrapped in it, we can use our own bags, and STOP throwing plastic away. Change the mindset that the earth is so vast that “what harm is one more little plastic bag going to do?”

This is THE wake up call.
Together, we can act a bit more responsibly and forever leave behind the old ways of waste. W e have modernization and technology to save the planet from death. It belongs to us. Our soil, our water, our sky.

How I got here:

It all started with those nice little clear plastic boxes that salad and spinach come in from the grocery store. I really love how fantastically fresh it is to buy it this way! But throwing away that sweet little plastic box after the lettuce was gone began to really bother me.

I have a garden in the summer but in winter I rely on the grocery store for fresh greens. I end up purchasing lettuces in plastic clamshell boxes.

The sad truth is that ALL non-compostable materials are sifted out and sent to a landfill.

#7 PLA, or “compostable plastics” can be made from a variety of biodegradable materials including: starch, cellulose, soy protein, lactic acid, or, counter intuitively, petroleum that supposedly breaks down when exposed to the high temperatures of industrial compost facilities. As vague as this description from the prominent compostable plastic producer World Centric is, what is even more vague is the description of where these plastics end up.

Although #7 PLA products can technically be composted, the reality is: that is simply not happening. Compostable plastics take around 60 to 90 days to compost in an industrial facility, but these plastics just don’t have enough time to break down. They require water and air to begin decomposition and this does not happen in the landfills.

#1 PET plastic clamshells are not accepted because of the labels. EVERY FOOD COMPANY USES A DIFFERENT KIND OF GLUE FOR THIER PACKAGING LABELS which cannot be removed, and it literally gums up the shredding machines. Read on to learn about one lettuce grower in New Hampshire who has a removable-friendly label!

But, we should not be throwing them away in the first place. They make wonderful storage organizers. You can’t resell them, but you can organize the heck out of your fridge, pantry, and whole house. As an artist and instructor I re-use these boxes to transport everything from pencils, tape, scissors, paint, you-name it.

These PET#1 clear lettuce boxes can be washed and turned into a nice, tidy storage bin with lid. Once you start re-using these boxes, you will NEVER throw one away again. Since I started saving plastic boxes I have been able to organize the heck out of my life. H

Here are just a few of the ways I have used them:

  1. Storage for Craft items so you can see what is in them.
  2. Cards, envelopes, Pencils, paints, tape, ribbon, glitter, seeds, the list is endless.
  3. Transporting items you need to bring to the meeting, or lecture, or classroom.
  4. Organizing Tools, tape measure, glue
  5. To store and/or otherwise delivery of those items.
  6. Scissors, tape, hole-punch, tags, bags, and business cards. Everything is right where you can see it.
  7. Need a gift box? Customize one with your own words or art and wrap it up.
  8. Travel. All of your underwear and basically, everything can be folded neatly and packed in a clear lettuce box. It makes unpacking and finding everything a breeze. Cosmetics! Hair stuff!
  9. Ditto on packing a backpack. Keeps things neat and protected. Even your lunch.
  10. Camping. Need I say more?
  11. Organize drawers. Socks, underwear, lingerie, t-shirts, scarves, small items, jewelry.
  12. Napkins, candles, ornaments, lights.
  13. That big spinach box is perfect for shoes!.
    Find everything right where you need it for any project, without the clutter.


Stay tuned for my next blog to learn HOW TO GET THE STICKY LABEL OFF OF PET#1 PLASTIC LETTUCE BOXES. By the way, if you buy a BIG box of spinach, two of you can saute it and eat it all in two to three days, and your health will get a boost.