Making waste reduction simple.
“Plastic bag” recycle is a misleading name. So much more than plastic bags can be recycled in this category. For example, the plastic around consumable items like paper towels, toilet paper and bread; bubble mailers, zip lock bags, sealed air packing (used in shipping), plastic shipping packages, and so much more can be recycled easily at most grocery stores if clean and dry. A simple to know is if the plastic crinkles it can’t be recycled, but if it stretches when pulled it can.
Here’s how to recycle the packaging:
1) Remove plastic tape from cardboard boxes and recycle the cardboard boxes in your normal recycle bin. Paper tape like Amazon uses can be left on.
2) Pop bubble wrap, air pillows, or any other air sealed packing to remove the air and recycle with plastic bag recycling.
The easiest way to reduce waste when shopping is to bring your own bag or simply carry the items in your hand. This is true for the grocery store, pharmacy, mall or anywhere you “check out”. When possible avoid bagged or packaged produce and bring a reusable produce bag. It’s normal to forget your bags at first. If you push a cart of loose items to you car enough times though, you will start remembering!
When buying consumables packed in plastic (for your family or your pets) try to pick items wrapped with plastic that can go in plastic bag recycling. When possible buy in bulk to reduce overall packaging. Some supermarkets even allow you to buy dried goods in bulk without all the extra packaging. Trade voluminous liquid products like laundry and dishwasher detergent for plastic free pods or powders.
The most difficult items to recycle are “mixed materials” where paper, plastic, aluminum, etc. are combined. This includes milk cartons and kids juice boxes where paper is coated in plastic. It is better to choose items made of one material, even if it is a plastic jug, then to buy mixed materials.
There are a number of recycling programs available for hard to recycle items. With “Subaru Loves the Earth” you can drop off plastic cups, lids straws, snack and candy wrappers, styrofoams cups, and coffee and creamer capsules at participating Subaru dealers. Terracycle also has a number of other free programs where you can ship them items to recycle or event start a community drop-off point.
Many restaurants are moving to composable takeaway. If your favorite restaurant isn’t there yet, bring your own container for leftovers and if you feel it’s appropriate politely recommend this change to restaurant staff. You can even keep your own composable containers in the car for spontaneous food stops! Until then, many recycling companies take clean and dry Styrofoam for free and can be found easily with a quick google search. If your food comes in a cardboard box, like pizza, you can recycle any part of the box that doesn’t have grease on it. If it’s partially contaminated just tear it apart and recycle what you can. Clean aluminum containers can also go in the recycle bin When you are ordering food to take home let the restaurant know you don’t need cutlery.
Two of the most widespread and affordable eco-friendly brands are 9 Elements and Seventh Generation. They are comparable in price to traditional household products and available at Walmart, Amazon, Target and other major retailers across the US. Many of the products still come in plastic containers so try and buy in bulk. Other top candidates are ECOS, Dropps and Attitude. Beware, many brands advertise as “free and clear”or “clean” when in fact they are highly toxic. You can research products ahead of time using the EWG databse.
If you truly want to go “all naturelle” consider using vinegar, baking soda and lemon for cleaning. While vinegar isn’t technically a disinfectant (even though it does kill some bacteria such E-coli and Salmonella) it is a powerful cleaning agent especially when combined with baking soda. Vinegar isn’t suitable for some surfaces and appliances, such as natural stone countertops. When in doubt, google it.
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