Happy 50th Anniversary of Earth Day – APRIL 22, 2020
In these days of stay-at-home orders, we can still go out for a walk and enjoy nature. Please remember you are part of nature and what you consume/toss/recycle has a direct effect on our environment.
Below find excerpts from a great article on why it’s so much harder to recycle these days and how you can help, happy earth day – Lisa Thibodeau, Solid Waste Administrator, Chisago County Department of Environmental Services/Zoning.
’Horrible hybrids’: the plastic products that give recyclers nightmares
From singing birthday cards to baby food pouches, a growing trend of mixing materials is making recycling even harder - consumers can help by searching for more recyclable products – and then voting with their dollars.
The cheerful, singing voice inside your musical “Happy Birthday” card is enough to strike horror in the heart of your local recycler.
The musical cards, which play a recording when opened, look like plain cardboard, making them easy to accidentally throw in the recycling bin. But experts say the insides are laced with cheap electronics and toxic batteries – making them a nightmare to dispose of.
Such cards are just one example of what recyclers say is a growing trend in mixing different materials to create new types of products and packaging, which is making the work of recovering reusable products much harder.
“I call them ‘horrible hybrids’,” said Heidi Sanborn, who heads up the National Stewardship Action Council, a network of groups that seeks to get manufacturers to take responsibility for the proper disposal of the products they sell. “They are made of multiple materials or materials that are impossible to recycle. It’s a mushing of things.”
Discarded single-use plastics have become an international environmental flashpoint, as they have turned up in the bellies of birds and fish, flooded pristine beaches in remote countries with litter and even been detected in microscopic quantities in rainwater. Plastic products designed to be used for a few minutes can take decades or longer to decompose...
The US municipalities and recyclers are scrambling to increase the amount of recycling they can do domestically. But these new formulations of hybrid packaging – items mixing materials like foil, paper and sometimes multiple types of plastics – stymie recycling solutions and mostly just end up in the trash.
“One of the biggest problems for recyclers right now is all the products containing lithium ion batteries, such as the singing cards, balloons and other novelty products,” said Kate Bailey, the director of research at Eco-Cycle, a Boulder, Colorado, recycler. “These batteries can spark easily when they get caught in the processing equipment or run over by a front-end loader, and these sparks can lead to disastrous fires in the recycling center.”
Bad: singing greeting cards
Better: regular cardboard cards
Best: cards made from recycled paper or E-cards
Bad: musical mylar balloons
Better: colorful pinwheels
Best: edible bouquets
Bad: tennis shoes with light-up wheels
Better: regular tennis shoes
Best: shoes made of natural or recycled materials
Another growing menace for recyclers are the plastic pouches increasingly used to hold everything from laundry detergent pods to cereals and juices. This flexible packaging is made with many thin layers of different types and colors of plastic and is sometimes layered with foil and wax. Manufacturers and plastic producers tout these pouches for making packages smaller, reducing shipping costs and increasing the shelf life of foods. But recyclers say they are pretty much impossible to recycle. And they are apt to end up in the ocean and take decades to biodegrade.
Bad: detergent pods packaged in film plastic bag
Better: detergent in recyclable see-thru plastic jugs or cardboard box
Best: laundry detergent strips
Bad: Baby food sold in plastic pouches
Better: The old recyclable glass jars
Best: Make your own from fresh fruits and vegetables
Another bugaboo for recyclers is the increasing use of non-recyclable wrappers around perfectly recyclable bottles and cans. For instance most spray cleaners come in bottles made of high-density polyethylene, which can be readily recycled. But first consumers must remove the spraytops, as they are made from different plastics and are not recyclable. Then consumers must find a way to pry off the brightly-colored, printed plastic wraps that packagers are increasingly wrapping around bottles to make the labeling more attractive.
“Who does all that? Nobody,” said Sanborn. “We’ve made recycling too complicated. Who has the time to read a manual for everything they get rid of?”
Instead consumers can look for clear-colored or white bottles with the labeling printed on the bottle itself. It’s even better if they choose brands committed to using recycled plastic to make these bottles, such as Method cleaning products.
Bad: plastic spray bottle wrapped with an extra layer of printed plastic
Better: white or transparent bottle without the extra wrap
Best: make your own cleaner and refill the bottles
Bad: beer cans with plastic wraps or vinyl stickers
Better: regular, very recyclable cans
Sanborn says that the best recycling outcomes happen when companies pay to create programs to make sure the waste from their products gets recycled in the end. Such programs are often mandatory in other countries. In the US, a few companies are promoting this type of effort voluntarily.
“We should have it so these companies have to have an end-of-life system for all their products,” said Sanborn. “That’s producer responsibility.”
Heidi Sanborn | Executive Director | National Stewardship Action Council