Do your recyclables need to be clean?

Day 314 – Choosing to recycle is a big step in helping the planet. However, it can get confusing. One question that many people have is, “How clean do I need to get my recyclables?” The folks at Earth911 put together a guide to help answer that question and they broke it down by type of material.

Jars, Bottle and Cans

  1. These usually only need a quick rinsing.
  2. If dealing with something like mayonnaise or peanut butter, try to get the majority out, but it does not need to be spotless.
  3. For stickier stuff like honey or jelly, give it a good scrubbing with soap, so you can remove most if not all of the substance.
  4. You do not need to remove labels from jars, bottles and cans.
  5. Allow these containers to dry if you are placing them with mixed recyclables (like paper or cardboard).

Cardboard and Paper

  1. When dealing with cardboard, like a pizza box, recycle what you can. Usually the lid is without grease or food, and can be put with your recyclables.
  2. Don’t be ready to trash a box if you happened to spill a little food on it, while cooking. If it’s not a significant amount, still get that box to the recycle bin.
  3. When it comes to paper, crumbled or wrinkled paper can go into a recycle bin. However, shredded paper can not.

Plastic Bags and Film

  1. If a bag has food on it, make sure you clean it.
  2. Make sure they are dry.
  3. Some crumbs would not hinder the recycling process, but be sure to shake out bags before recycling.
  4. Don’t put your plastic bags and film in your curbside recycling. Find a location (most grocery stores and Target) that will accept them.

By keeping contaminants out of your recycling bin the better chance your items will get recycled.

Tomorrow, drinkable ocean water.

Lasso: The Home Recycling Solution

Day 310 – Recycling rates across the country are not great. Many cities, like Chicago, recycles less than 10% of what is collected. Recycling is not the sole solution, we are going to have to refuse, reduce and reuse. However, the idea of being able to recycle plastic, glass and metal at your home sounds very appealing.

Lasso, at home recycling machine, recycles the following:

  1. PET and HDPE plastic
  2. Clear, green and brown glass
  3. Aluminum and steel

Here is how Lasso works:

  1. Lasso accepts your used materials using internal sensors, cameras and AI machine learning.
  2. If an item is not recyclable, Lasso simply returns it to you. No more recycling confusion.
  3. Lasso tracks your items in real-time, and you can even check products for recyclability on the move before buying them, with our in-app bar code scanner.
  4. 100% of contaminants like food, grease, dirt and sticky packaging labels – all removed for you.
  5. Lasso steam cleans every item, saving precious water versus manual washing.
  6. Plastic, metals and glass are broken down separately, reducing to a fraction of their size and maintaining valuable purity throughout.
  7. Once processed, Lasso channels your purified products into the storage container at the base of the appliance.
  8. When storage is approaching capacity, Lasso automatically notifies you via the smartphone app – required just 3-8 times per year.
  9. Lasso collects when it suits you – your app suggests on-demand collection slots to fit any schedule.
  10. When collection is due, simply detach Lasso’s storage container and leave it at the curb. Our pickup drivers take care of the rest.
  11. Lasso guarantees close-loop recycling, where every item is made new again, from a bottle to a bottle, a can to a can.
  12. Receive cash returns within five years of ownership, subject to your consumption.

Lasso is not on the market yet, but you can reserve one today. It will cost around $3500 – $4000.

I sure hope the Lasso is a huge success and I hope the price comes down. I would love to have a Lasso in the kitchen recycling my plastic, glass and metal, while making me money and saving the planet!


What is downcycling?

Day 301 – So, when an aluminum can is recycled it can be turned into another aluminum can. The same can be said about a glass jar. However, when it comes to many other products, they are usually turned into something with less value and quality. For example plastic can be recycled into fleece or polyester.

We have all heard about plastic milk jugs being turned into park benches. As much as a park bench is a nice thing to have, we need to do better in creating a circular economy. We can’t continue making more park benches, because we can not curb our need for virgin plastics.

Downcycling is mainly a problem due to misinterpretation of the public. Many people assume that plastic, like glass or paper, can be recycled over and over again forever without losing any quality. The truth is that plastic is continually downcycled until it is rendered completely useless for recycling. After that, in most cases, it winds up in a landfill, where it slowly breaks down into microplastics and emits methane.” – GreenMatters

It’s important that we realize that many items, especially those with plastic are not 100% recyclable. Far too often we interpret the term “recycle” as “completely recyclable”. However, that is not the case and we need to start rethinking the materials we purchase.

Now the opposite to downcycling is upcycling. This is the process of giving something more value and quality then it originally had. A great place to see examples of upcycled items is the Facebook group “Upcylceit” Here you will see amazing transformations of items that were on their way to the landfill. However, some have taken the time to make these items even better than before. Check it out and get inspired!

Tomorrow, time to celebrate our feline friends.

Tips on Having an Environmentally Friendly Halloween

Day 297 – The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween. However, we should probably be thinking green. Seven Generations Ahead created a great Green Your Halloween Guide to help you make your festivities environmentally friendly.

Here are few of the suggestions:

  1. Try to buy your pumpkin local. Supporting your local farmer is always a good choice.
  2. Have a plan for your pumpkin after Halloween is over. If the pumpkin is not carved think about eating it (soup, pie, etc). If you carved your pumpkin plan on composting it. Look for a local Pumpkin Smash event in or around your neighborhood. On October 31st, I will be listing all the Pumpkin Smashing events in the city and suburbs.
  3. Avoid buying a new costume. Check out your closets and see what you already have. Consider a costume swap with family and friends.
  4. Trying to find sustainable packaging for your candy purchases is very difficult. Consider buying in bulk to limit the packaging and go a step further and invest in a TerraCycle zero waste box for candy wrappers and snack bags. For any leftover candy, avoid throwing it away and donate to an organization collecting surplus candy.
  5. If your hosting a party, purchase decorations and party supplies that can be used year after year. Preserve plates, cups and bowls are an excellent option.

Whether it’s your everyday routines and habits or special occasions, putting the planet first should be everyone’s priority.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly Halloween crafts.

Let’s Talk Recyclability?

Day 296 – When it comes to recycling, many have mixed emotions. Some do what they can to recycle as many items as they can. While others don’t trust the system and don’t bother, thinking it’s all a waste of time. If I have learned anything this past year, it’s you at least have to try to make a difference. If we all become complacent about our impact on the environment, whether that’s negative or positive, then the planet has no chance. We all have the capacity to make a difference.

So, on that note, I thought discussing the number of times a particular item can be recycled would be helpful. It will show you that recycling is helpful and something we should all be doing.

Plastic can only be recycled once or twice. The quality of the plastic decreases. Most of the time, plastic is downcycled into something like plastic lumber or synthetic fibers for fabric or insulation. It’s just one more reminder as to why we need to find alternatives to plastic.

Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times. It is the most valuable recycled item in the United States. Choosing packaging made from aluminum and getting that packaging to the recycle bin is a real win for the planet.  

Paper can be recycled around five to seven times to produce new paper. Once the fibers become to short, it can be used to make things like egg cartons and newsprint.

Metals, other than aluminum also have an unlimited lifespan, and it is always a good idea to recycle them. Finding someone willing to recycle your metals is usually an easy process. You can even make a little cash.

Glass can be recycled an unlimited number of times. It is also more cost-effective to reuse and recycle glass than to create from scratch.

So, choose your packaging wisely.

Tomorrow, tips on having a green Halloween.

First Mile – Plastic Collection Brought to You by People that Care

Day 292 First Mile is a business that is monitoring the plastic supply chain. Consumers can have confidence that the products they are purchasing came from recycled material and those responsible for collecting that plastic are being compensated accordingly. From the moment that plastic bottle is picked up from the street to the time it is created into a new product and sold to the consumer, First Mile is tracking every step.

Here is how First Mile describes their process:

  1. People in the First Mile of our supply chain collect bottles from the streets, their neighbors, and yes, even the landfill to trade for cash at a local plastic collection center.
  2. Once prepared and bundled, those bottles are piled high on a truck and transported to a recycling facility for processing.
  3. Workers at each recycling facility unload and grind the bottles to make plastic flakes. Labels and caps are removed to prevent non-PET material from reaching later phases of the supply chain. High-quality flake means superior fabric and ultimately a better livelihood for people in the First Mile.
  4. Recycled plastic flake is extruded into fine strands, then texturized into a soft fiber that rivals other organic materials.
  5. Fiber can be spun and texturized to create a more substantial strand of yarn. Innovation in these steps allows recycled content like First Mile to take the place of traditional materials, without compromising feel or flex.
  6. First Mile recycled yarn can be woven or knit to create unique fabrics and textures.

Many name brands are using First Mile plastic in their products.

  1. U.S. Bank uses recycled plastic in their debit cards.
  2. Puma uses recycled plastic in their shoes and clothing.
  3. Day Owl uses recycled plastic in their bags.
  4. Ralph Lauren uses recycled plastic in their polos.
  5. Hewlett Packard uses recycled plastic in their computers.

These days it is hard to know if we are being greenwashed or if companies are doing what they say they are doing to help protect the planet. It is nice to know that there are organizations like First Mile helping us decipher the truth from the lies.

Tomorrow, green goo that won’t gross you out.

There’s Money Available to Help Your Curbside Recycling

Day 291 – The goal of the Recycling Partnership is to create scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges and to accelerate the shift to the circular economy that uses fewer limited resources. They have given $1.8 million in grants to help meet their goal and to help communities improve recycling. Through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, the partnership has given the grant money to six recipients to advance curbside polypropylene (PP) recycling. 

The six companies include:

  • Green Waste, San Jose, California;
  • Murphy Road, Berlin, Connecticut;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Pellitteri, Madison, Wisconsin;
  • Sonoco-Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina; and,
  • Sonoco-Onslow, Jacksonville, North Carolina

The coalition has helped fund 13 facilities’ recycling efforts, which will positively impact nearly 15 million Americans.  The grants increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 13 million pounds annually to be made into new products. This includes consumer packaging and automotive parts.  

Reducing the use of plastic and increasing recycling rates is a partnership that is a win for the environment.

Tomorrow, recycled plastic with a story that needs to be followed.

The Plastic Hanger Problem

Day 290 – About 100 million hangers are tossed in the trash each year. Those hangers are made from plastic and it takes about 1,000 years for that plastic to breakdown. So, there is a crazy amount of plastic hangers sitting in landfills. One other piece of bad news, those plastic hangers are made from a variety of plastics that make them impossible to recycle.

Roland Mouret saw this plastic problem and wanted to do something about it. He created the Blue hanger, the first sustainable clothes hanger. They are made out of 80% recycled plastic recovered from the sea and 20% recyclable plastic, and they also feature aluminum hooks.

It seems like a fully recyclable hangers would be a no brainer. Not to mention a hanger made from recycled plastic. Though, you can’t find Mouret’s hanger on the market, there is another option.

(re)x hanger – It is made from 100% recycled ocean plastic collected by reclaimers in South Africa. It is a woman owned business and a !% for the Planet member.

Ending the need for virgin plastics sends a message to the companies continually using these plastics. The more we support companies that are finding ways to use recycled plastic in their products the better our environment will be.

Next time you’re in need of more hangers consider a more a sustainable option.

Tomorrow, grants to help curbside recycling.

Breaking Down the Truth About Plastic

Day 286 – Charlie Rolsky is a plastic pollution researcher, finishing up his PhD at Arizona State University, and he serves as the Director of Science for Plastic Oceans. Charlie and Plastic Oceans International has created a video series to help educate us all on the plastic pollution problem.

The videos are short and to the point. They cover topics like:

  1. The Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
  2. Burning Plastic: The Pros and Cons
  3. Plastic in Our Food…and Bodies
  4. Recycling
  5. Biodegradable Plastics: Working with What We’ve Got

Plastic Oceans International offers many resources to help you better understand the plastic pollution crisis.

The first step in fighting this war on plastic is to educate ourselves on the root of the problem. If we can not see that we all need to change our relationship with plastic, we will never be part of the solution.

Tomorrow, recycling water in office buildings.

Are Detergent Pods Good for the Environment?

Day 284 – I used to use Cascade detergent pods in my dishwasher. I stopped using them because of the plastic container they were packaged in. I didn’t even consider the plastic that is found in the pod itself.

PVA (polyvinly alcohol) is used to coat dishwasher pods. It’s also found in laundry detergent pods, as well. Plastic Ocean International looked into PVA covered pods a little further.

“Once PVA goes down the drain, the chances of it biodegrading are very low. It requires strict conditions for it to be broken down via microorganisms that are not always present in wastewater treatment plants or in the environment. We also looked at how many pods were used to try to establish how much PVA goes untreated, every year, in the United States. We’re talking over eight thousand tons of PVA going into the environment, every year, originating from these detergent pods. That equates to 600 million plastic soda bottles worth of plastic, yearly. Ultimately, very little is known about how PVA behaves as a pollutant but one thing remains clear, it does not fully biodegrade.” – Plastic Ocean International

Your best bet is to use a PVA free detergent. Blueland cleaning products sells dishwasher tablets. Purchase the reusable tin and continue to load up with refills, packaged in compostable bags.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Farmers Day.