Plastic, Lots o’ Plastic
Sustainable Belmont hosted a Q&A with Mary Beth Calnan and Wellington PTO Members to discuss recycling issues in town, including the great efforts underway at the elementary schools. Participants were invited to submit questions and share ideas during the evening and in advance of the discussion.
In our first recap, we distinguished between materials recycled and total materials diverted from the conventional waste removal. Diverted materials include those that are recycled at the curb, food scraps composted at home, yard waste and items recycled at special events or donated in usable condition. Increasing what we divert – and reducing overall – relieves costs for waste removal and conserves our environment.
For complete information on what is accepted curbside, go to the town DPW page.
From our event, we share a few tips specific to PLASTIC:
When it comes to plastic bottles, we learned that not only may plastic rings and covers stay on, it is preferable that they stay on so that the machine will divert the cap with the bottle. If it gets separated and filtered to the wrong place, it won’t get recycled. Interestingly, the Water Project cites that only 1 in 5 bottles actually makes it to the recycling center.
When it comes to other plastic containers labeled #1-#7 the key words are ‘container’ AND a number – you can’t have just one or the other and be certain that the plastic you are recycling is the desired type for the receiving company. To be clear, a plastic container is not just a bottle – many food items like take-out, berries, eggs, etc. come in plastic containers. So, what do you do with your numbered, non-container plastics?! Fortunately, you CAN recycle them but, you will have to wait for a specific event that takes them. Luckily, there are 2 coming up:
MAY 3rd 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Belmont will hold a Recycle Day in conjunction with DPW Day
MAY 3rd 8 to NOON Daniel Butler Elementary School PTA will host an electronics recycling drive (a common source of plastics).
And, if you happen to be out of town, check out this guide for more options.
Our last all-plastic item is the all-too-convenient plastic bag. Material Recovery Facilities, a.k.a. MRFs (pronounced Murph’s) – they hate plastic bags. Why? These stretchy buggers get caught in the mechanics like corn silks in your teeth, like gum on your shoe, like dinosaur feet in tar. Ew, yuck. They force the machine to stop, which means $$ stop, in order to clean it of these restrictive infiltrators. And what happens when they are removed? They end up in landfill, oceans or incinerators.
Plastic bags have NO business in your recycling bin.
Take these rascals back to the supermarket where you will find a nice bin at the door just for this! If you are part of Butler, Wellington or Burbank Elementary Schools, you can recycle the very same bags there as part of the TREX program in schools. Be aware that when you go to the grocery store, you may not find a lovely description of all the plastics that you can recycle there – many originate from purchases there – however TREX has confirmed with us that all groceries chains in our area take the following plastics:
*Clean & Dry*
- Ziploc bags (no hard plastic sliding closure, regular zip-locking style is accepted)
- Diaper/Paper Towel/TP/Napkin overwrap
- Bread Bags
- Grocery Store Bags
- Produce Bags
- Air Pillows (deflated)
- Dry Cleaning Bags
- Case Wrap (ex: from bulk item purchases usually used to hold items to a cardboard tray)
You can find a handy picture on our site. Do you have to scrub them? That depends – you can shake the crumbs from a bread bag and be done, or if you have a very dirty bag, you will have to sponge & dry thoroughly.
TIP: Keep a container where you unload your plastic-wrapped goods to immediately stow for recycling later. Make it easy – anywhere you have trash, have a recycling container.
Once you get the hang of identifying these common plastics, you’ll be happy to see 50% or more of your plastic intake being diverted to this recycle stream, but remember – even with all these options for recycling of plastics, the best impact for the environment and our health is to reduce as much as possible.
Part 3 to come – Aseptic container recycling, odd bits, product stewardship, the bottle bill and food waste.