Recycling is SO 2017!
Maybe it’s my age,
.... or maybe my recent life changes, but lately I’ve been rethinking a lot of the tenets and ideologies I have held in the past. Holding each at arm’s length, turning it over & around, squinting my eyes .. then focusing hard. This new view has been surprising me a bit.
Take the latest, recycling. Is it really worth the time? The money? The effort?
Ok, perhaps let’s back up. I am a tree-hugger extraordinaire. I’m practically credentialed as an Earth Mama. I have been making soaps and candles and granola for decades. I reuse cereal bags and scrape my dishes with old credit cards. If something can’t be composted, I will try to recycle it.
But I’m just not in love with recycling anymore. And it’s not only me. There has been quite a bit of research on the feasibility of recycling various materials. It’s complicated! Some materials, aluminum and paper, for instance, are easily recycled and a market exists for the post-product. Others, like plastic and glass, not nearly so.
When we moved to our little Idaho mountain town, I was thrilled to find that they had a recycling drop-off point where we could take our empty La Croix cans, our cast-off plastic containers, and the mountains of cardboard from all the packages we order on Amazon. We would have to haul our empty glass 2 hours down to the city, but I was undaunted.
I came to find out that I missed the super slick single-stream recycling I was used to in other big cities we had lived in. It is a chore to separate paper from cardboard from aluminum from tin. And I noticed that if a little tomato sauce was left in a can, it soiled all the other cans in the bag. Still, I was on a mission. And I felt so very GREEN when I sorted my castoffs into the appropriate little door on the dumpsters.
A few months ago I noticed that the dumpster that held plastic was gone. Every week when we came to drop off recycling, we would pack the ever-growing bags full of plastic back into the car, hopeful for the next week. Occasionally we would arrive to find the cardboard dumpster overfilled, with boxes spilling out onto the muddy ground. Dilemma - add ours to the mix and feel valiant for having recycled? Or haul it back home and wait for the dumpster to be emptied?
Recently our weekly paper reported on the plastic recycling situation. Apparently it had become untenable, so they stopped taking it entirely. Our trash hauler had a contract with a company in Utah, who burned the plastic for heat to dry concrete materials. And we paid them to do it! First - burning plastic is legal?? And get this, they had stopped taking the plastic from our county because it was too contaminated.
My county is not alone in having to spend money to recycle. According to a report in the Guardian, thousands of municipalities lose money in an effort to appease our appetite for recycling. The market for our recyclables (read : China) is not so interested anymore and is much pickier about what they will take.
I had come to believe, along with my progressive and environmentally minded ‘’’set’’’, that recycling was not only free, but going to save the planet. The more we put in the bin, the better! And it got so much simpler when those giant wheeled single-stream bins that came to be in every upper middle-class garage. Now that I have to clean, separate, and haul, I have hands-on and am much more aware of my family’s (over)consumption habits.
Although there is still an international demand for cardboard and paper, even that is reducing. And contamination is a huge issue. When not-quite-empty food containers are tossed in the bin with paper, it is all contaminated and rendered useless.
So what is an Earth Mama to do?
While I feel like searching Madewell.com for a new sweater to make me feel better, here are a few better ideas I am implementing and you might find useful.
DON'T BUY - I know, it’s trite … but can you at least question before you buy ANOTHER pair of socks, set of bowls, or wine bottle stopper? I get it, Amazon prime is so easy! Unsubscribe from ALL the emails - insider's secret : there is ALWAYS a sale going on! A good friend of mine goes on an annual buying diet in January - essentials only! I don’t go that far, but I have a note on my desk that says,
BUY RECY - be a part of the after-market. Choose recycled paper goods, like toilet paper and printer paper. It is not as bad as it used to be, I promise! Also, buy from companies that reuse plastic, like Preserve. It's simple : The more we choose recycled products, the more they will make and companies won't be burning our plastic.
DIY - if you make it, then it did not come in a package! My kids were extremely environmentally minded this Christmas. My daughter made all our gifts from scratch and presented them with a scavenger hunt, saving on wrapping. My son custom-made all of his wrapping boxes from cast-off cardboard.
CHOOSE - Less packaging at the store! Buy products based on how they are packaged. And reuse the packaging you need. Put your bulk coffee beans (you buy in bulk, right??) in the unrecyclable fold top bag from the store, and then bring it back next time. Bring cotton and mesh bags for your produce. Forget your shopping bag? Challenge yourself to carry your purchases without a bag until you get to your car where you left them.
REFUSE - samples! Just say NO (thank you) to sephora and aveda (and every other beauty company). You are probably not going to use the samples, so they will wind up in your drawer until you toss them the next time you get motivated to be a minimalist. In the same vein - don’t pack home the hotel toiletries! The more we take, the more they make and do I have to rant about what a waste all that plastic is???
and if all else fails …
MOVE - nothing made me aware of the excess in our life like having to pay for everything we owned to be moved … and then unpacking it all on the other end.
So now you know ... or perhaps you already knew but were pretending you didn't ... or maybe you know more than I do and can leave a comment about what you do! At any rate, no more head in the snow (I mean sand) ...
Back here in my small town, the locals rebelled and the county is now accepting #1 and #2 plastics again. They do not have an outlet for them so are storing them in the meantime.
Peace ❤️ CeCe