If you have been struggling with plastic recycling, your time has come! California recently passed legislation that any company that makes any given plastic item can no longer place the resin code with the plastic number on an item if it is not recyclable. I hope that recyclers will soon see this change throughout the U.S.
These resin codes have led all of us to believe that if there is a recycling logo (three chasing arrows in a triangle) on the package, that item is recyclable. Not true! In particular, on plastic items, this logo with the number inside the triangle only meant to tell manufacturers what type of plastic that item was made from. In Lyon County, the only plastics that we recycle are plastic resin codes, 1, 2 and 5 and then only if they are a tub, jug or bottle. Any other kind of plastic are considered trash which includes: plastic kiddie pools, laundry baskets, any kind of plastic bag or case overwrap, Styrofoam, car parts, plastic pails, etc. The plastic item has to come from our kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. It has to be a container that held food or a personal care item such as laundry detergent or shampoo to be recycled.
A couple of good examples of items that are not recyclable but have the resin code 1, 2 or 5 on them are empty oil jugs, empty rv coolant jugs, any kind of plastic bags and Styrofoam. These items are not recyclable in our recycling carts or community containers. Oil and RV containers and plastic bags are trash only.
The misuse of the recycling logo has been going on for quite some time by manufacturers. Legislation in California is just the beginning of having manufacturers be held responsible for the products that they sell us on a daily basis. Recently, Maine and Oregon also passed legislation that makes packaging the responsibility of the manufacturer to not only help residents in these states to dispose of packaging but to also help pay for its disposal — whether it is through recycling or other means. This is called EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility).
EPR is not a very new concept. In Europe, EPR has been in place since July of this year. Basically, manufactures’ of given products must help pay to recycle, reduce packaging or change their packaging to a form that is either recyclable or reusable. In the past, it was up to the consumer to figure out what to do with items that were hard to dispose of or hard to recycle.
Residents as well as manufacturers have forgotten that recycling is only part of the solution and it is not about how much we can recycle but it is more about how much of our trash that we can reduce going into the landfill. This is the true measure on how well we are doing with some of the larger issues surrounding our environmental troubles.
If we all chose today to reduce what we are purchasing at the store or making better choices to reduce how much trash we make in our homes, then we win each and every day. A good challenge is to see how well each of us can do when it comes to food waste. Food waste is a huge issue and problem in the United States. 22% of the trash Lyon County residents throw away is food waste.
To put this in an easy scenario, let us say each week, each of us throw out 4-13 gallon bags of trash. If we no longer put wasted food or food that could have been composted (think apple cores, coffee grounds, carrot peelings) into the trash, we are now down to only 3-13 gallon bags of trash. You just slowed your waste stream down by ¼. If we add into the mix that you were able to recycle one, 13-gallon bag of items, now you are down by ½ of your usual waste stream.
Yet, there are some who claim that it is not their responsibility. Let us think about that statement for a minute. As the Lyon County Landfill continues to fill up, we currently have an estimated 55 years left before it is full. If you have a child who is 10 years old, they will be looking, as an adult, to find a different location for a landfill for their trash. This is nothing new as cities such as New York are now traveling over three states away to haul trash out of the city. The other part of this is that food waste also contributes to wasted water, land and fuel. I could also mention climate change here as well as food waste also contributes to methane gasses in landfills.
Reducing and reusing are just as important as recycling. Yes, recycling may be one of the easier things to do but we can also reduce and reuse just as easy. For more questions on recycling, reducing and reusing or where to throw away certain items, please give us a call at the Environmental Department at (507) 532-8210 or the landfill at (507) 865-4615.