Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plastic Solution Checkpoint: It’s all in the Packaging

Take a tour of pretty much any isle of your local supermarket and you may find a choice in the products you’re planning on purchasing that you’ve never considered. Several items today from juice to spaghetti sauce to salsa come in a variety of containers and packaging. One easy step to becoming plastic free is to simply choose the glass jars and bottles, metal cans, or paper boxes for your products instead of the plastic bottles and wrapping. Although glass, metal, and paper remain contenders for packaging in a lot of items, there are some that are becoming more and more dominated by plastic. There still are a few non-plastic options but they may be hidden somewhere like the organic/natural foods isles or at your local co-op. So why is this important? Here are a couple statistics from the United States Environmental Protection Agency as reported in “Did You Just Eat a Plastic Bag? How Plastic Pollution Has Entered Our Food Chain” by Lisa Kaas Boyle in The Huffington Post on January 6, 2011:

1. Plastic Plates and Cups: 780,000 tons were produced, and all 780,000 tons were discarded.
2. Plastic Trash Bags: 930,000 tons were produced, and all 930,000 were discarded.
3. Plastic Bags, Sacks and Wraps: 3,960,000 tons were produced. 9.8% was recovered (390,000). 3,570,000 tons were discarded.
4. "Other" non-durable goods including plastic disposable diapers, footwear and clothing: amounted to 4,810,000 tons produced with all 4,810,000 tons discarded.
5. PET Bottles and Jars: 2,680,000 tons were produced, 27.2 % were recovered (730,000 tons) and 1,950,000 tons were discarded.
6. HDPE (white translucent homopolymer bottles): 750,000 tons were produced, and 29.3 % (220,000 tons) were recovered. 530,000 tons were discarded.
7. "Other Plastic Packaging" including coatings, closures, lids, caps, clamshells, egg cartons, produce baskets, trays, shapes, and loose fill: 3,720,000 tons were produced. 3% (110,000 tons) were recovered, and 3 Million 610 Thousand Tons were discarded.

All in all that means that of 17,630,000 tons of plastic only 1,450,000 tons or 1.2% were recovered. This is for a few reasons.
1. Some people don’t recycle (thankfully this is improving).
2. Some plastics were never designed to be recycled.
3. Recycling plastic doesn’t reduce the demand for new plastic because when you recycle plastic, it actually is not really recycled. As Boyle reports, because of the complicated structure of plastic, most plastic isn’t recycled but “downcycled” and becomes a different lower grade plastic.
4. Plastics absorbs grease dirt and chemicals. Because of this, as much of a third of plastic dropped off for recycling is too greasy and dirty to be recycled, and gets thrown away anyways.

There are also issues of costs and contamination (including when two types of plastic are found together) that prevent plants from accepting significant amounts of the plastic that is out there.
Overall the best choice when it comes to plastic packaging is to stick with the 1st R of Recycling and reduce the amount you use. Glass, metal, and paper products are all much more easily recycled and returned to their natural state to be used again and because they are also more natural elements less harmful when not recycled as well. If you can’t find your favorite products in non-plastic packaging try contacting the company to try and get them to change.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Breaking the Plastic Wave

It’s somewhat of a mantra among environmentalists that we need to think of the world that we’re leaving to the next generations that will follow us. In the case of plastics this task is especially daunting because the plastic that we use everyday from sandwich bags to cell phones will stick around for over the next 15 generations. Even when it has finally photodegraded to the size of a grain of sand, it remains as plastic. Some plastics release toxins into the soil, air, and water in the process.

MarkO Productions is happy to introduce a new feature to our blogspot to help us all think a little more about how we can alter our daily choices to help break up the waves of plastic that are continually having a negative impact on our wildlife, and environment.

This week’s Plastic Solution Checkpoint: Ditching the plastic bags.

Many of us have seen the clever marketing and new growth in reusable shopping bags. They come in a variety of materials (even making use of recycled plastic) and a variety of prices. One thing they all do though is help rid us of some of the most annoying plastic offenders – disposable plastic shopping bags.

According to one New York Times article as of 2007 plastic bags accounted for 90% of all shopping bags used and America alone went through an estimated 100 billon of them every year. Makes you wonder when you think that these bags made for a one time purpose - the drive home from the supermarket - stick around for hundreds of years.

Thankfully many stores, cities, and even countries are trying to do something about it. Some stores offer rebates for using re-usable bags, others have worked to eliminate plastic bags from check out line completely. As of a BBC report in 2008 many countries had imposed a variety of limitations and restrictions on plastic bags and others had imposed fees or charged taxes for them. Several cities around the world have also taken a stand and had them banned outright. As of January 1, Italy was set to implement a country-wide ban on plastic bags as well.

Just to help get started here is our family’s personal favorite find:

Just so you know, we weren’t paid for this in any way. A while ago I was looking around and found these and fell in love – for being 100% natural cotton and made under Fair Wage/Fair Trade Standards they were the best deal that I found, and I think they’re pretty cute.

If you do a web search or even browse the rest of Amazon you’ll find tons of other styles and prices. Even look around the next time you’re in the checkout line, many stores are selling reusable bags for around $1.00 each.

The only catch once you have them is to use them, so remember to put them some place convenient like a hook next to the door or even in the car. Good luck!