My Zero Waste Challenge week has come to a close, but my mind has been opened. In recently days I have found my actions changing, my choices having different factors and my frustration escalated. My bag is full of items that sadly, I can not recycle or re-use and that is what elevates my frustration. I’ll be honest I feel a bit sad about some of my findings. I’ve come to realize that my consumer habits, though I try as I might to purchase with a low-waste mind, still needs to be refined and re evaluated. Coincidentally while I was on the last leg of this challenge I read the Epilogue from the book No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. Quite the mouthful to say, but quite the impact as well. For one whole year Colin Beavan lived with his family, in New York City, trying to have as little of an impact on the environment as possible. A documentary was also made while he and his family were conducting this experiment. Last night as I read the last line of his book, I felt called to act on what I have come to realize this week. Colin left his readers with this question “So, what are you going to do?”
Well, I am going to actively lead by example and keep trying to produce as little waste as possible. I’ll explore options that do not require me purchasing items or using items that have single use and can not be recycled/re purposed. I realized most of my items are related to snacks or others offering me something and I accept. Is it not polite to say “No thank you, I am trying to reduce my landfill contribution.” Do I really need to be snacking on candy and chips anyway? I could set aside some weekend time to make my own snacks and store them in reusable containers at home? I will also ask companies directly, is your product recyclable and if not, why is it not? Does your packaging have to be in plastic #6? My hope is that with consumers asking these questions and not purchasing based off of the waste the product creates then maybe even more companies will re-think their products container.
Over the weekend I accumulated six new items to add to my bag of trash. They are numbered above.
1. As I woke up to the sound of a hungry cat and a large to-do list on Saturday, I fed the cat some breakfast and and made myself a nice cup of tea. For this week I have been throwing away my food waste as to not create a larger smell problem or a mold problem in my bag. My tea bag though got me pondering. I have composted coffee grounds before, but never thought the same result might be a good place for tea. After looking around on some gardening websites, I found an article that explains how tea is not only compostable but beneficial for plants. Even the bags are biodegradable meaning you don’t have to open up the tea bag compost it. My only concern is the tea bags that have a silky feeling or those with a small metal staple, probably should not compost those bags just in case.
2. This weekend I made a great baked tilapia with a side of green bean salad and some vegetables in polenta. Not to make your mouth water, but to bring up an aspect of waste that I have decided to focus on more, food packaging. The only waste from preparing this meal was the food scraps and the plastic from the tilapia. I used to buy fresh tilapia until I decided to stop using Styrofoam, these tilapia create a different problem though. Each filet is wrapped in plastic, and all put into a re-sealable plastic bag. For smell’s sake I did not include the individual wrappings from my meal, but I included the plastic strip you have to cut off in order to open the larger bag. Today I called up Costco and asked them if the packaging was a recyclable plastic. When the costumer service representative looked up the item, she said the only note they put for that item is that it is recyclable but the grade of plastic is not given in the product information. This leaves me with the question, do I put it in recycling because Costco said its okay, or do I put it in landfill because I do not know the grade of plastic? For today, I am putting it in the landfill because non-recycled items in recycling process can be more harm than good.
3. Toby Keith may love his Red Solo Cup, but I on the other hand most certainly do not. Toby sings about his cup being more than a cup to him, he likes that its cheap, disposable and you can even write your name on it. In his song he claims it is decompostable in fourteen years. Given that #6 is not even recyclable in most cases, I doubt it will be compostable within my lifetime let alone fourteen years. While out doing my grocery shopping I wanted to try a sample that was served in a little mini Solo cup. Based on my findings, the only place for a Solo cup the morning after a big party is either a landfill or Terracycle. The hitch with Terra Cycle though is you have to sign up to be part of their recycling program then you collect your cups and send them in. For now I will just stick with handing out .25 mugs from the thrift store to hand out at parties. That way as a party goer you just need to remember, was I the IHOP mug or the “Happy Father’s Day” with the goofy dog on it?
4. My cat loves his treats, and it wasn’t until this project that I realized that my cat’s waste is technically my waste since I purchase for him. Yesterday he finished off a bag of treats and it is my job to find out if the packaging is recyclable or not. My hunch is not, and I was right. After contacting the company they told me at this time they are not recyclable but they are looking into changing their packaging. Off to the landfill it goes then. An interesting alternative, a friend mentioned to me while I was talking about this predicament that homemade cat treats are pretty simple to make and I could store them in a mason jar!
5. Same story as my pita chips, I was the last one to have some tortilla chips, making the bag my waste. I had assumed that it was not recyclable but decided to call their customer service anyway. I was told that if their bag has a recycling symbol on the back at the bottom then it is a recyclable plastic. If there is no symbol then it is not. They explained that they make a lot of different snack foods for different brands but they are all under the same parent company. Mine had no symbol, but I’ll keep an eye out for the other brands this company produces to see if they do have some recyclable options.
6. With all that grocery shipping and running around, I seem to have some receipts. Through my research I have come up with a conclusion, that if its shinny and has lots of ink, not recyclable. The shinny coating and ink isn’t good for the recycling process, its called a thermal printed receipt. This article from 1800Recycle (a search engine designed to assist consumers with questions about what can they recycle and where) explains the difference between thermal receipts and regular printed receipts.
Over the course of one week I accumulated 16 non-recyclable items. With Chopin’s Funeral March playing in the background I will dump my trash into a real trash can and keep with me the lessons learned over this very enlightening week.