Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Recycling Dilemma

I woke with fresh coffee and a soy yogurt. When I was finished I rinsed the container and, doing my best to be a responsible recycler, examined the number on the bottom of the container to find the number 6 inside a recycling symbol. Prior to researching what numbers on the bottom of plastic containers meant, I would have just tossed it in the recycling bin, unknowingly sending it to the landfill while my ego remained intact.

Fortunately, I now sort my plastics. Why, you may ask? Because here in San Diego curbside recycling only extend to plastics 1-3, while 4-7 is sorted out to the landfills. As plastic is recycled the quality degrades making it hard and harder to recycle, so a 2 becomes a 6, a 1 becomes a 5, and 3 becomes a 7. By placing plastics 4-7 aside, the responsibility of recycling the plastic now lies on me driving to the nearest recycling center.

In Northern California some markets, such as Whole Foods, offer number 5 recycling programs. This makes it a bit easier to set aside # 5 and take them along to the market the next time you have a bit of grocery shopping to do. The debate about whether to start the program up here in Southern California and other states is in discussion, so mentioning that you support this program can help with the decision to implement such programs locally. So when you get a chance send an email over to your local market to request the need for these services immediately.

As an individual I make a fair effort to recycle as much as possible, but unfortunately we all can’t and won’t do that because the market for higher number plastics is slim. The best alternative one could offer is shop wisely when purchesing plastics:

*Buy in bulk so there is less container usage

* Avoid buying colored plastics no matter what number they are, as colored plastics are NEVER recyclable due to chemical compounds

*Check the number on your plastics before purchasing and, if possible, look for an alternative product with a lower number if possible

* Reuse the plastic containers–they make for great take-out containers!

If you think that you may have an addiction to plastic, add Plastic Anonymous on Facebook for a little extra help with the consumer battle on plastic. While it is intended to be somewhat humorous it is important to realize that plastic itself has become a nationwide addiction, as the use of plastics continues to rise while our planet suffers.