I’ve heard on the news a bit recently that much of the stuff we put into recycling doesn’t actually GET recycled. It’s been shipped to China.
“East and West are inextricably connected by their plastic trash, as wealthy nations sell their recycled plastic scrap to Asia for the simple fact it’s easier to ship it around the world than process it at home.
That convenience was cast in a new light last January, when China, the biggest importer, stopped buying most recycled waste. After 25 years as the world’s salvage king, China refused to buy any recycled plastic scrap that wasn’t 99.5 percent pure–a move that upended a $200 billion global recycling industry with profound consequences on both sides of the world.”
I find this deeply disturbing, not only because we’ve been SELLING our recycling to another country, but mostly because we really don’t have the means to deal with it here.
I thought we did.
But this is how we handled plastic waste. True to American form, we pawned it off on someone else. I had no idea. And I’m pretty sure many other Americans didn’t either! In my last blog, I disparaged the practice of tossing things and forgetting it. That we don’t really understand or (want to) know where it goes after that.
It’s clear we REALLY can’t do that anymore. So, I have tried to ponder what I can DO with the empty container(s) besides sending it off for recycling. Can I reuse it? I was surprised at the variety of ways this can be done with little or no thought.
Take that salsa jar you just emptied. Rinse it out, put it through a dishwashing cycle and BAM! there is another container for leftovers. Not only that, glass doesn’t take on the odors that plastic containers do, nor transfer possible toxic chemicals into your food. (We’ll get to reusing plastic in a moment). But if you don’t want to reuse that jar, glass is FAR more recyclable than plastic.
“Glass bottles and jars are 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss in purity or quality. Over a ton of natural resources are saved for every ton of glass recycled.”
We all have heard we have a “crisis of plastic”. Particular items are being banned en masse to try to prevent further accumulation. Straws, beverage holders, six-pack straps, retail shopping bags. That’s only FOUR items. Look around. Plastic is in just about everything. So, when there is no alternative to that plastic item you need to have, reflect on what else it can be utilized to do after its original purpose is done.
Storage bags can be washed out (handwash only as they won’t endure the temps of a dishwasher) and use again a few times. Maybe you’re not keen on putting food back in them. Store small toys for the car. Put a couple in your purse to keep personal hygiene products…hygienic (ladies…you know what I mean). For traveling, use them for dirty laundry in your suitcase. There’s myriad uses for them. THEN…when they are used up, get them to recycling.
Boxes. Aside from being VERY recyclable, who doesn’t love a good solid box? Your cat will thank you for the new digs! I am currently using flattened boxes to cover my wood pile to keep the snow (mostly) off of it. I also use them for storing items for donation and then take that to my favorite charity. It keeps things neater than a plastic trash bag and is sturdier for heavy items. They keep the garage and closets tidier. Don’t have the space? Take them to your local UHaul® center, and they may donate them to a less fortunate family who needs to move. Go Costco® style and bring them for heavy items at the grocery store. THEN recycle them.
Magazines. While digital media is slowing taking over this industry, there is still a huge print category out there. I get a couple subscriptions myself. It’s wonderful to sit with a cup of coffee on a cold day and “read a mag”. Don’t throw them in the recycling bin when you’re done! Take them to your doctor or dentist’s office. Drop them off at the library or senior centers. The DMV! Any place that people must “wait” would probably be very much appreciated!
Let’s go a little bigger…furniture. DO NOT put it on the damn street corner with a “Free!” sign on it. Weather and animals can render that useless in a matter of a day. Don’t be lazy. Find a friend with a truck and donate it. If your local charity can’t take it, perhaps a homeless shelter can use it. Again, senior and community centers often take donations of this sort. We just always think Goodwill® first thing. Put some thought into it. Ask around! One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!
Remodeling projects. TRY to not destroy what you’re taking out. Granted, sometimes there’s no other way, but much of that can be reused! Habitat for Humanity will take gently used household cabinetry, countertops, sinks, toilets, lumber… Check your community listings for local outlets which also offer discounted project materials. I once tore down my decrepit deck and kept the wood (redwood!) and made raised garden beds, repaired some fencing, and made a picnic table from it. If you live in an area where “scrappers” drive around looking for discarded items, then feel free to leave it out for them. But if no one picks it up in a week’s time, take responsibility for it to get it to the most useful place it can go next.
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”