Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Egg Cartons, Part 2

Suddenly the purpose of this blog is coming into focus!! Remember my little post about reusing egg cartons a few weeks back? (Of course you do!) I lamented the fact that the 'good' eggs (hee, hee) came in non-recyclable packaging. But get this: I just learned from a recycling specialist at the county that they are recyclable!! This blows my mind in two ways, one humbling, one mildly irritating. First, I used to work for the county's recycling program as one of their recycling educators, so, my job was to educate people on what could be recycled, what couldn't, whatever. And while I worked there (I left that job a mere 18 months ago) our mantra was you can recycle plastics with a #1 or #2 on the bottom, but only if they were bottles. #1s and #2s. Bottles. Got it. No other shaped things, no yogurt cups, no toys, only bottles. And now I learn that things have changed and I didn't know. That's the humbling part. Second, the irritating part. This has nothing to do with the county, by the way, I have nothing but love and respect for the women who work in the recycling department at the county, seriously some of the finest women I have ever had the honor of knowing. They do a great job handling an ever-changing landscape of recycling rules. My irritation lies with the plastic industry and the plastic recycling industry. First, why the numbers with the recycling symbol on the bottom of all plastics, when only #1s and #2s can be recycled? This only confuses people. People who mean well. People who want to recycle. People who feel it is their civic duty. Second, why the different rules in different places about recycling plastics? I know the answer, it has to do with markets for recyclable materials and collection processes, but, again, hello!!! Different recycling rules in Waukesha County vs. Jefferson County vs. Dane County only causes confusion among, once again, those people who really do want to recycle, and want to recycle correctly. This was a source of irritation when I worked as a recycling educator and it still bugs me. Get it together plastic recycling companies!! Make it easy, simple, no brainer-ish for people to recycle and recycling rates will go up. Aluminum, steel, paper... easy! Now, we just need to get the plastic recyclers to heed the memo.

Apparently I am a bit worked up this morning. The simple message you really need here is this: at this point in time you can recycle any plastic item that has a #1 on the bottom. So, egg cartons, bottles, oddly shaped thing-a-ma-jigs, whatever, so long as it has a #1 on the bottom. But, until later notice, you can only recycle a #2 that is a bottle, as in the neck is smaller than the body. #1 - anything. #2 - bottles only. Oh yeah, and all those other plastic numbers (3,4,5,6,7) still do not belong in your recycling bin. Just don't talk to your friends in Lake Mills about it, because their system is totally different. Wait, did I say simple message?


Rebecca said...

I agree with you Courtney about the 1's,2's and 4's etc...I also find it frustrating ! Part of my goal at Hartland Market, is to work with manufacturers to use only 1's and 2's, if possible. We will also be installing bulk shopping at the new facility.
We do take back empty containers from one of our home cleaning lines and bring them back to the manufacturer for refill. This way we never touch the landfill. We also take in egg cartons and get them back to the farmer for refill !

Tina said...

thanks Courtney, I wasn't aware of the bottles only, the only mention of limits in our newsletter here in Hartland is the no lids rule. We do take many other numbered plastics to Whole Foods when we make the trek to the East Side. They have it on their website when and what they will take. We also take all soft plastics (grocery bags, ziploc bags, deli meat bags), washed and dried, to the Martinizing cleaners in town; they have assured me any soft plastics are recycled. I know wal mart and P&S also take them, but I have heard rumors that they toss them . . . don't know the facts there. I will ask for foil at restaurants that only offer those horrible styrofoam go packs. They other thing we do is split items so we don't take anything to go, works if we can agree--we don't get out much!