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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Refuse, Repurpose & Recycle Plastic

As featured on the Rethinking Green Radio Show on KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan/College Station, Texas

Plastic surrounds us every day. We live in a convenient society where almost every purchase involves plastic in some form. From grabbing a drink in a plastic bottle which leaves the store in a plastic bag, to storing food or other items at home, plastic is here to stay in our everyday lives. Today we want to talk about what we can do to Reuse, Refuse, Repurpose and Recycle plastic.

Some facts:
It will take a plastic bag 10 to 20 years and a plastic bottle 450 years to decompose in a landfill (Read more).

“31 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2010, representing 12.4 percent of total MSW. In 2010, the United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging, almost 11 million tons as durable goods, such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, for example plates and cups. Only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling.”

Source EPA.gov  – these statistics are updated every 2 years so we will have new stats next year for this year 2012.”

What do the numbers on Plastic Mean and Where Can I Recycle Them?
Plastics are numbered 1 through 7. Each number stands for a different type of material. For the specific information that we discussed during the radio show about each type, what it’s commonly found in and what it can be recycled into please click here.

Plastics 1 and 2 can be picked up via your curbside recycling program in College Station if you are enrolled, or dropped off in Bryan in the drive through recycling area in the Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot off of Briarcrest Drive.

Plastics 3 through 7 can be recycled via the following:

1)      Brazos Valley Trash Valet   www.bvtrashvalet.com  -
     979-777-8968  They offer a full array of options for individual,    businesses and multiple dwelling units here in the Brazos Valley. Please visit their website for more information and easy, convenient enrollment into their affordable program. If you prefer, you can contact them by phone as well.

2)     Brazos Valley Recycling -
          They have a Drop off location conveniently located on 
          the TAMU Campus on Adriance Lab road on West campus
          across from the vet research building. This is off of highway 60.

Recycling, repurposing and reusing plastic not only reduces waste in the landfills, it also reduces energy consumption as well as using fewer resources (i.e. no need for more new plastic to be produced). This in turn costs less and saves money for both businesses and the community.

Until we make it convenient everywhere to recycle so that the percentage increases of what is being recycled, we as consumers in a high paced, busy, want it now society need to be more aware of what products are packaged in and what we will do with those containers once have consumed the initial product offering. Personally, I would love to see recycling containers next to every trash can at every business and on the city streets. However, until that occurs, it will be up to us to keep reminding people of what they can do and that their choices matter.

Refuse Plastic? What do you Mean?
Be aware of what you are purchasing. Look at the packaging on products and read the labels. Purchase products that are packaged in less to begin with or are concentrated. Purchase products that are already post consumer recycled material. Refuse to take plastic shopping bags home with you and take your own bags into the store. Take your own containers to put take out food in and refuse the stryofoam containers or only eat at places that use take out containers that are either reusable or more easily biodegraded.

Stop purchasing bottled water. Purchase reusable bottles and fill them with free water. This saves you money as well. As consumers, we do have power. If we stop buying bottled water and items that are overpackaged and/or mostly water to begin with and start purchasing more concentrated and reusable items, what do you think manufacturers will start doing? Why they just might have to follow the trend of our purchases in order to stay competitive.

But I have all these plastic bags! What can I do with them?
There was a time when I was unaware you could take your own shopping bags in the store. I too had so many of these bags that I could not figure out what to do with them. I quickly decided that I had to find some use for them as my husband was complaining mightily about me keeping them. I just did not feel right in throwing them away.

Being too frugal to spend the cash on a diaper genie, I quickly realized that I could use the extra bags to stow smelly diapers and tie them off. This was much better and much  nicer on our already strained budget. I also realized I could use these bags as small trash can liners and not purchase small liners. More savings in the budget. Then I started using them as trash bags in the car. Allise suggested stowing them in a paper towel or toilet paper roll under your car seat for neatness and easy access. Plastic bags are also great to use as gloves to pick up anything you don’t want to put your hands on. Then it’s easy to dispose of as well in the now used bag.

Plastic shopping bags make excellent packing material. It is much cleaner than newspaper, which tends to rub off on your hands and items that are packed. It is more malleable than newspaper as well. I also use the bags to store packing peanuts that have come out of packages that have been shipped to me. This keeps them tidy and easy to use when I need them again.

Donate the plastic bags. Thrift stores such as Habitat Restore are always happy to receive these as donations. Our local animal shelter, Brazos Valley Animal Shelter welcomes plastic bags, newspaper and shoeboxes. They are located on Leonard Road and the donation items can be dropped off in their welcome center or they will unload them from your car for you. Check their website or call 775-5735 for more information.

Art projects for camp, school, scout or church projects with children are great ways to reuse plastic bags. Pinterest has great ideas on how to reuse plastic bags in this manner. Rugs, mats, decorative wreaths, reusable bags – truly the ideas are endless. Tearing the bags into strips encourages weaving or crocheting or both! Encourage kids to get creative with this inexpensive item for art projects. Here is a link to how a reusable shopping bag can be made: click here

What can Businesses do to Refuse, Repurpose/Reuse and Recycle?
Businesses can switch from Styrofoam with a one time purchase of plastes, cups, bowls and cutlery. Or they can encourage their employees to bring their own containers from home. Neutral Posture, where I work as a Buyer, switched over a year ago with a one time purchase of about $150. Now we have saved all the Styrofoam being disposed of and also are saving about $30o per year in not re-purchasing plates, cups, bowls and plastic cutlery.

Other ways businesses can Refuse is to be aware of what their partners are doing that service them or supply them with products. For example, other things we do are send remnant foam back to the vendor for recycling so it doesn’t go into the landfill. Many of our partners are chosen based on their cradle to grave attention for raw materials as well as ways to recycle and/or reuse any remnant product not used in the end product.

Reuse or Repurpose? What can be done?
Again being aware of what you are purchasing and how it can be Reused is the first way to Repurpose plastic. Assess anything you are tossing in the trash as to whether it could be used again and in what way. Go through your home, room by room and see it from a different viewpoint as to what can be reused creatively. There really is no end to what you can do if you are simply creative. The savings alone should be enough to give one pause as to how things can be Reused.

picture Copyright apartmenttherapy (shared from facebook)

In my various social networking, I have found the following ways to Repurpose that I found both intriguing and ingenious. As previously mentioned, I am certain Pinterest probably holds more than I can imagine. Simply Reuse an old plastic shoe over the door hanger by putting it outside and putting soil in each pouch and growing small herbs for consumption. This is great for small balconies or areas where one does not have large yard area. Use a 2 liter as a terrarium for cuttings to get them started or plants that tolerate this type of soil arrangement.

While there is a lot of information we covered this evening, it is not all encompassing. I learned several new things while doing the research for this show and realized I was not nearly as sustainable or green as I thought I was. Plastic is a constant in our lives and we should do our best to ensure it doesn’t land up in a landfill or our ocean which cycles back to us in potentially harmful ways. Allise shared some great information about this at the beginning of the show. Jenn gave us some great resources and information as well about BPA in plastic and how that is hormone disruptor. There are many other great ideas out there I’m sure that we did not cover. I welcome any information you can add to be posted in the comments as additional resources for our readers.

If we as consumers, become more aware of what we are purchasing and how it is packaged and begin to make changes in what we buy based on that, eventually manufacturers will be forced to make changes. As a Natural Products Educator, I discuss alternatives that are packaged in Refuse, Reuse and Recyclable packaging both in person and via convenient after hour online webinars (which would not interfere with employee productivity). I would welcome setting an appointment to educate your group about this and other ways to be more sustainable.

Finally, encouraging recycling containers in more accessible areas and encouraging local businesses to be more plastic Refuse, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle friendly benefits us all. Let’s keep Rethinking Green and coming up with additional ways to be more sustainable as individuals, businesses and as a community.

Thank you to KEOS FM 89.1 for letting me be a guest on their show- Rethinking Green. Please keep tuning in Wednesdays from 6-7 pm for more great information!

Additional Resources for all types of recycling here in the Brazos Valley

You can recycle medicine bottles at: Bryan Medicine Chest (979) 776-6800
(thank you to the listener who called this in to the show!)

Here is a link that talks about Eden and Natural Forest as well as several other companies that have transitioned to BPA free containers: Click here

Organic Consumers Organization site: Click here

Kathie Hitt