There is barely any reason to throw away any plastic anymore. Reducing plastic by not buying it at all is the best way to phase out plastic, but the next best thing is recycling and reusing it. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all plastic from our lives. But luckily, almost all plastic can be recycled, reused, or repurposed.
All plastic curbside recycling needs to be clean and dry. One of the things I like to do is melt glass (and make things with it). A greasy fingerprint will stick around after the glass is melted at 1400+ degrees. So I understand when recycling companies ask for clean material. Plus I’m sure it’s just a lot less nasty. In Jefferson County WV, clean plastic numbers 1-7 are accepted.
Plastic bags and plastic film put in the recycling bin will end up in the landfill. They clog Waste Management’s recycling machines. According to their 2014 sustainability report, Waste Management doesn’t want them.
“Even though in some places we accept bundled plastic bags, we encourage customers to return their bags to retail collection sites instead. The market for clean, dry plastics collected in retail take-back programs is robust, while bags collected in curbside programs are wet and dirty and generally are not recyclable.“ -Waste Management
Plastic bags and plastic film, including newspaper and toilet paper wrapping, bread and cereal bags, and most all thin plastic film dropped in Martins or Food Lion recycle bins (also Giant Eagle and SuperValu in WV) are shipped to Trex where they are recycled into alternative lumber.
To recycle larger items and electronics, the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority recycles the following for free:
The Boonsboro Green Fest also has an extensive recycling list. Mark your calendar: Saturday, May 9th.
REPURPOSE (upcycle) and REUSE
Using plastic for other purposes than it was originally intended is also called upcycling. More and more people are doing this within their homes and communities. The internet is also full of re-purposing ideas. I like to keep some in mind (and to start collecting material) for Christmas or holiday gifts. Terracycle is a larger scale example. Schools and other non-profits can make collecting for terracycle a fundraiser.
A few favorite upcycled things in my house are my reusable shopping bags made of plastic bags crocheted together, a bowl made of candy wrappers (a gift and this picture), and a front door mat made from recycled flip-flops. I also bought this tool so my husband is never without a guitar pick.
Some ways I reuse plastic are:
I make my own laundry soap and reuse the containers.
I save my potting pots to give away cuttings and extras when I clean my gardens.
I’ve used broken swimming noodles to plug up holes in my chicken coop.
Old sour cream containers and take out chinese food plastic are now tupperware for packed lunches and leftovers.
Medium sized plastic containers that held pretzels or nuts become bins for bulk food.
5 gallon and 3 gallon plastic buckets that originally packaged home repair materials are reused for cleaning or gardening projects.
I use lids to hold an ant killer I make during ant season (sorry ants).
I keep herb containers and reuse them (usually just for more herbs and spices).
My ultimate goal is to send zero plastic to the landfill. I’ve been getting closer to that goal each year by practicing plastic awareness.
Check out this blog to read some amazing plastic-free advice.