March 19, 2013
Call those toll free numbers
Recently, the packaging of my brand of oatmeal changed: it went from a soft plastic bag with a #4 recycling symbol to a bag made from a crinkly type of material labelled with the #7 recycling symbol. Alas, #7 plastics are a catch-all class of materials that don’t fit the other categories; they are for all practical purposes unsortable and unrecyclable. Trash, hidden behind a recycling symbol. (More on that here.)
Well, like most consumer products, my oatmeal bag had a toll-free consumer hotline – so I called it and to inquire why a company would change from recyclable to a non-recyclable packaging. The person on the other end promised to forward my concern to the engineering department.
Alas, my oatmeal still comes in a #7 bag. But if enough consumers called that toll-free line to question the packaging, I know the folks in the engineering department – and the boardroom – would take note.
Gandhi said, “We must be the change we seek in the world.” Here’s a simple way you can Be The Change: if you come across packaging that is labelled as a #7 plastic or that is an unrecyclable mix of materials (there’s plenty of it out there), why not call that toll-free number and make your concerns known? Enough calls = action and positive change!
July 23, 2012
Soft plastic: one of the few products that is truly, completely recyclable
Recycling is a good thing to do. But it surprises most people to learn that most of what we put into our recycling bins is not actually recycled, it’s downcycled: that means it’s turned into products of lesser quality or reduced functionality. (Example: water bottles are downcycled into carpet, not recycled into new water bottles.)
Not so for soft plastic – it can be truly, completely recycled. As long as it’s clean, it can be remanufactured into identical products over and over.
So what’s ‘soft plastic’?
- Grocery and shopping bags
- Bread bags
- Milk bags, including the inner bags (as long as they are clean)
- Anything identified with the recycling logo and “LDPE” or the number 4
- Most non-crinkly plastic, as long as it’s clean
(Note: cling wrap used on food products is not recyclable; but stretch wrap used in warehouses for pallets is)
Plastic is made from petroleum, so every bit recycled means less oil consumed. Please do your part, and recycle all your soft plastic.
October 4, 2011
Buy your milk in bags
Milk is a staple of virtually every household, but what type of milk packaging is the most eco-friendly? All three types of milk packaging – jugs, cartons and bags – are recyclable. But unfortunately not all are accepted by all recycling programs.
As well, recycling isn’t a perfect solution: collecting and transporting recyclables costs time, money and fuel – especially when the end destination of those recyclables is half a world away. Where I live, jugs and cartons are recycled, but in China. Yep – sorted, baled, stuffed into a container and shipped thousands of kilometres.
So what’s a consumer’s greenest option for milk packaging?
1. Check with your local solid waste authority to see what’s accepted for recycling, and then choose accordingly. In spite of its shortcomings, recycling is still better than trashing.
2. Choose the biggest size available; one big jug or carton uses less material than two or more small ones.
3. If all three types of packaging are recycled where you live, choose plastic bags:
- they are lighter (less material and less weight to transport)
- both the outer and inner bags are the same soft plastic as grocery bags so they can be mixed in with them (but inner bags must be well rinsed of residual milk)
- they may be recycled locally (as they are here in NB) as opposed to being shipped to China; and
- soft plastics (#4 LDPE) are one of those rare materials that can be perfectly recycled: that is, reprocessed back into the very same types of products over and over again.
September 7, 2010
Turn some of your trash into cash for your school, charity or non-profit
Imagine if you could turn some of your garbage into dollars…
You can – with TerraCycle! TerraCycle pays cash for certain items that are commonly thrown in the trash, like empty drinking pouches, cookie wrappers and yogurt containers. True, it’s just a few cents for each, but those cents can add up – especially in schools, where the daily trash can include hundreds of such items.
Here’s how it works: you go to TerraCycle’s website at www.terracycle.ca (and it has a link to affiliate sites in several other countries), choose which trash item(s) you’d like to collect, and sign up. Then periodically send in what you’ve collected – TerraCycle and its sponsors pay the shipping, and will send you money for each item.
Get started today – go to www.terracycle.ca, watch the video, and sign up. It’s simple and there are absolutely no fees!
September 23, 2009
The paper napkin is part of just about every restaurant meal. At fast food restaurants, we can even help ourselves – and it’s easy to grab a handful without thinking, most of which end up in the trash unused or barely used. Our napkin habit consumes millions of trees a year. Millions.
But here are five simple ways you can save a tree:
At home, try to get away without using napkins in the first place
At restaurants, use just one napkin
Give extra napkins and napkins that have been lightly used a second life: use them as tissues (they’re usually a lot stronger than regular tissues), or tuck them into your car’s glovebox for a myriad of end uses.
When buying, choose napkins with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content
Compost used napkins when possible, so that they can become ingredients for the next generation of trees
Save a napkin, save a tree: it’s nature’s air filter.
In the News
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday urged world leaders to tackle climate change on a global scale. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-obama-climate23-2009sep23,0,6860735.story
Could this face in the ice be Mother Nature sending us a message? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1210706/Caught-camera-Mother-Nature-cries-river-tears-global-warming-threatens-planet.html
Hazy Opera House: a dust storm hits parched Sydney http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/23/world/AP-AS-Australia-Dust-Storm.html
Terry Fox Run
I’m delighted to share that I have raised over $26,500 in pledges. Thanks to everyone who contributed! (It’s still not too late: http://www.terryfox.org/cgi/page.cgi/Run/participants.html/USH8SW)
June 18, 2009
Most of us feel good about recycling, and for good reason: recycling helps us stretch more life out of resources and it can greatly extend the life of landfills.
But recycling isn’t truly recycling – it’s actually ‘downcycling’, because products sent for recycling are never remanufactured into the same product – they are turned into something of lesser quality, lower down the chain of products. Eventually, virtually everything ends up as trash.
So while recycling is much better than throwing something out, the best thing you can do for the environment by far is the first R: reduce.
You can read more about downcycling here: http://miramichileader.canadaeast.com/rss/article/701445 and an excellent book on the subject is “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm .
In the news
Yesterday, the Obama White House released a worrisome 196 page report projecting how climate change will affect Americans in the coming years. As one scientist put it, the report shows that climate change “affects the things people care about”. http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/06/17/17climatewire-us-study-projects-how-unequivocal-warming-wi-29186.html
Energy independence in ten years? That’s the goal of Repower America – and here is their latest 30 second ad. http://www.repoweramerica.org/(Hmmm… if the US can set such a target for a power grid much, much larger than Canada’s, what’s holding us back?)
Not all recycled paper is created equal: different words, different percentages and different certifications make buying paper a lot more complicated than it used to be. But here’s a bit of clarity.
Paper made from Post-Consumer Waste is made from honest-to-goodness recycled paper: material that has gone through one consumer cycle, been collected via recycling centers or blue boxes, and re-processed into new paper. The percentage of Post Consumer Waste in paper varies, but if you find a product that’s 100% Post-Consumer Waste, you’ve got the best – because it’s made of material diverted (rescued?) from the landfill.
Paper made from Pre-Consumer Waste is made from scrap paper that never made it to the consumer: trimmings from print shops and newspapers, surplus copies printed, etc. Paper made from Pre-Consumer Waste is better than paper made from virgin pulp, but not as good as paper made from Post-Consumer Waste.
And since most paper available is not 100% recycled, look for an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council – http://www.fsccanada.org) or Green Seal (www.greenseal.org) logo that certifies that the non-recycled portion of the paper comes from sustainably managed forests.
In the news
Ontario’s first annual 50 Million Tree Weekend (http://www.treesontario.ca/news/index.php/50_million_tree_weekend) happens this Friday and Saturday: ordinary citizens are being challenged to plant trees in support of the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign (http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign/).
Trees play a vital role in the world’s carbon cycle, and this is the perfect time of year to plant them. Learn more here: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/655623