Tips to a PVC Free Summer

Day 179 – What is PVC?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. PVC is everywhere around us because it is such a versatile material. It is used in toys, bottles, packaging, bedding, construction materials, wire coatings, clothing, piping, and furnishings, just to name a few. PVC is the third most popular type of plastic. This year, PVC production is expected to reach 51 million metric tons, worldwide.

Should we be concerned about PVC?

“PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies can be contaminated with the chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.” – Children’s Environmental Health Network

Ever notice that smell after opening a new shower curtain or opening up a new inflatable pool or that new car smell?

That smell occurs as a result of off gassing. Off gassing is when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released into the air that you breathe. Volatile organic compounds can be all kinds of chemicals. There are thousands of chemicals allowed to be used in materials intended for use in your home, workplace or vehicles every day. In fact, around 80,000 new chemicals have been invented since World War II. Some off gassing VOCs are thought to be carcinogenic, which means they cause cancer. Other VOCs can be harmful when mixed with other chemicals. PVC plastic undergoes off gassing.

Sadly, PVC is found in many of the items we use throughout the summer. Thankfully, many manufacturers are beginning to move away from the use of this plastic.

Here are some suggestions to avoid PVC this summer.

Swimming Pools – The Safe Parent created a list of Non-Toxic and Hard Plastic Kiddie Pools. The pools listed are all PVC free.

Life Vests – Many summer activities may include the use of a life vest. Unfortunately, many are made with PVC. There are PVC free options, but you’ll have to look for them. Make sure the foam insert is made from PE foam, EVA form or Gaia foam. Brands like NRS, Stohlquist and Astral offer PVC free vests, just to name a few.

Pool Floaties – It is next to impossible to find a pool floatie not made with PVC. I could not find any in my search, but that’s not to say they do not exist. The best advice I could give is to avoid the pool floatie if you can. If not, at least give it a few days outside to off gas. Pool floaties are also not recyclable. So, that beachball, water wings and giant donut inner tube will end up in a landfill after they have popped.

Pool toys – Many children toys are made from PVC plastic. Green Toys are PVC free and have a fun line of water toys. Which would be great for the pool!

I can honestly say that I did not avoid PVC plastic when my kids were younger. I didn’t know I had to. Hopefully, this information will help make your future purchases easier, knowing to avoid polyvinyl chloride.

Tomorrow, tips on having an environmentally friendly block party.

Wishcycling: You can’t wish your waste away

Day 127 – I am guilty of placing things in my recycling bin, not really knowing if they can be recycled or not. I hope they can and figure the people at the recycling center can make the call. However, there is a real problem when you rely on wishful thinking to recycle your waste.

This post will outline what the City of Chicago accepts in their blue bins. Personally, I have lost faith in the Chicago recycling program and have started going to an independent recycler. There, I drop off my accepted and sorted recyclables. If it’s at all possible for you, I highly recommend you find a company or organization that collects recyclables. The likelihood of these items being recycled is greater than using your blue bin. I have heard of churches collecting paper and cardboard. Scrap yards will collect your metals, like aluminum.

Only these items should be placed in your blue bin:

  1. Food and beverage cartons – Orange juice cartons, milk cartons, juice boxes (not pouches). Empty carton and replace the cap.
  2. Aluminum and steel cans – Pop cans, cans that store vegetables and other non-perishables – Clean out cans. Place lids of can inside the can. The smaller the item, the harder it is to properly sort.
  3. Glass bottle and jars – Empty and clean bottles and jars.
  4. Paper – Mixed Paper, mail, newspaper, magazines and flattened, clean cardboard.
  5. Plastic – Milk jugs, shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, food containers (like sour cream and spreadable butter)

Let’s talk more about plastic. This category becomes the most confusing. When you see a number with the chasing arrows on your packaging, it does not always mean that it is recyclable. All this is telling you is the type of plastic you have.

Plastic #1 – PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – ALL ACCEPTED curbside

  1. soda bottles
  2. water bottles
  3. salad dressing containers
  4. mouthwash bottles
  5. peanut butter containers

This plastic is recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, fiber, and polar fleece.

Plastic #2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) – ALL ACCEPTED curbside

  1. milk jugs
  2. household cleaner containers
  3. juice bottles
  4. shampoo bottles
  5. detergent bottles
  6. butter tubs
  7. yogurt containers

This plastic is recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles, to name a few.

Plastic #3 – V or PVC (Vinyl) – Only detergent & shampoo bottles & rigid clear food packaging accepted curbside

  1. food wrap
  2. plumbing pipes
  3. detergent bottles
  4. shampoo bottles
  5. clear food packaging
  6. cooking oil bottles

This plastic is recycled into paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, and roadway gutters.

Plastic #4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) – NONE of these are accepted curbside

  1. squeezable bottles
  2. shopping bags
  3. clothing, carpet
  4. frozen food bags
  5. bread bags
  6. some food wraps

This plastic is recycled into compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.

Plastic #5 – PP (Polypropylene) – ALL ACCEPTED curbside

  1. yogurt containers
  2. ketchup bottles
  3. syrup bottles
  4. medicine bottles

Polypropylene is recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers, and bicycle racks.

Plastic #6 – PS (Polystyrene) – NOT accepted curbside

  1. foam egg cartons
  2. foam plates and cups
  3. anything considered styrofoam

It is recycled into egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.

Plastic #7 – Other, Miscellaneous – NOT accepted curbside

  1. All of the plastic resins that don’t fit into the other categories are placed in the number 7 category
  2. sunglasses
  3. iPod cases
  4. computer cases

It is recycled into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.

These things should never go into your blue bin.

  1. No plastic bags or wraps. Even the blue bags made for recyclables.
  2. No food or liquid
  3. No scrap metal
  4. No hoses, cords or chains

This list could go on and on. There is a lot more that can not go in your blue bin than can go in. If you end up putting something in your blue bin that is not recyclable, you run the risk of contaminating your entire bin. If this happens, it will all end up in the landfill.

The City of Chicago created an A-Z list for items and if they are recyclable. I am currently in the process of making my own list with resources are know are up to date. I can not say the same for the city’s list, but it is a good start.

Click HERE for a picture guide of recyclable items accepted by the City of Chicago.

Ultimately, we have to cut down on the amount of waste we are producing. The market for recyclables is shrinking and we are beginning to run out of places to put stuff. As a society, we need to move to a circular economy if we are to survive and not be buried under our own garbage.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching this video created by NPR. It explains the complicated business of recycling and the idea of wishcycling.

Is Recycling Worth It Anymore? People On The Front Lines Say Maybe Not

Tomorrow, the donation centers do not want your broken stuff.