Comic Jim Gaffigan does a funny bit about preparing the recycling which he calls washing his garbage. His wife, Jeannie, is adamant that he follow the rules and he’s puzzled by the whole thing. I’m a lot like Jeannie Gaffigan.
If you’ve ever walked down a street and peeked into people’s blue boxes, you know how horrifying it is. Non-recyclables are stuffed into recyclables. Pizza boxes with half-eaten crusts are casually tossed in the box. It’s gross and it’s detrimental to the recycling process. Sometimes, you have to really wonder why we bother.
CBC did a wonderful job of explaining what happens when you don’t follow the guidelines of recycling. Every municipality has different rules about what it will and won’t accept. But in the big picture, how you prepare your recyclables is basically the same. Strip ’em and clean ’em.
From the CBC story:
“Food residue is the No. 1 culprit for contaminating viable plastic product for markets.”CBC.ca News
Recyclables are resold but if an item in a batch of product still has food goo in it, the whole lot it contaminates ends up in a landfill. In other words, your unrinsed can is wasting my effort!
The top contaminants are found in tomato sauce cans, peanut butter jars, and bottles that held shampoo and conditioner. I find it easy to rinse them when I’m doing dishes. I wipe out the peanut butter jar and then put it through the next dishwasher run. It’s not a big deal but it makes a big difference.
Another issue is what’s called, wishful recycling. That’s where you throw in something hoping it’s recyclable, and it isn’t, thereby causing contamination. It’s not guesswork. Each municipality makes its info public.
Reusing is far better than recycling. Keeping stuff out of the garbage by finding its new purpose is something Derek and I feel passionate about. It’s also why a company like OneTab is so great – they eliminate the need to buy more plastic bottles.
But beware the predators acting like solution solvers. Do you really need a “reusable lunch kit”? Or is it just another collection of stuff that speaks of more consumerism? Most of us already have the things we need in our kitchen.
I promise not to judge people by the mistakes they make in their blue boxes. But we’re putting a million or more disposable coffee cups in the landfills every day. It’s isn’t about being perfect. It’s about getting started and doing what you can.