In episode, Jess and Mason do a complete overview on the trio of Household Waste Deep Dive episodes with fact checks, useful information and actionable tips on how to do better by the planet. The United States is 4% of the world’s population but produces 12% of the world’s waste. By taking small steps, we can collectively narrow this gap and increase our positive impact on the planet.
National facts & figures on waste – https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials
Nice 101 on composting – https://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home
Useful compost ratios and inputs – https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/composting/
Our current solution – The Foodcycler
Our next solution – The Lomi
Learn more about Terracycle and get one of their everything boxes – https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/
EPA guidelines on Household Hazardous Waste – https://www.epa.gov/hw/household-hazardous-waste-hhw
Austin specific guide – https://amld.org/household-hazardous-waste
Stats on plastics in the house – https://polymerinnovationblog.com/recycle-disposal-plastic-food-packaging-waste-8-waste-plastic-sorting-technologies/
To learn about the plastics crisis, start here – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/recycled-plastic-america-global-crisis
Pretty ok transcript:
[00:00:00] Jess: Jess and Mason here, and this is a wrap-up of our household waste, deep dive, so much wonderful information in these recent podcast in two think all
[00:00:08] Mason: amazing information,
[00:00:10] Jess: but it can be overwhelming. Add that to the myriad of materials and packaging created every year. And I feel like our heads are just spinning, staring at the trashcan.
So what we’d like to do with this episode is try to pull some of the needles of the most useful information out of the haystack for you. Instead of breaking things down, you see what I did there? Nice plan by material type. We are going to go by size of waste stream and focus on the house, which means we won’t talk about restaurants or offices, industrial transportation, et cetera, just the home.
[00:00:41] Mason: a quick primer on the big numbers, and we’ll give you a quiz later, as you might know. The U S kind of sucks at trash USA is 4% of the world’s population, but produces 12% of the world’s waste and much more of that is consumer trash, not industrial, like other large trash producers. Canada’s the world’s top waster, but that’s industrial trash.
It’s all from mostly construction and log-in and such the next largest consumer trashing countries aren’t even close. Latest figures. Show that as a country. We compost or recycle only about 32% of our waste, which is actually down from a peak of 35% in 2015, and likely attributed to marketing campaigns about recycling not being effective.
We’ll get to that later. This is also well below European counterparts, like Germany that recycle or compost 68% of their municipal waste. So we’ve got some work to do. Wow.
[00:01:38] Jess: They do 68. Yeah, super high, much
[00:01:41] Mason: higher, but waste stream diversion. Hasn’t always been around just 50 ish years ago, essentially. All of the ways that we generated went to landfills, because that was the only place that send waste.
They weren’t diversion programs. Now only 50% of what we produce is land. So we’re chipping away at it and food plastics, metal glass paper. Most of the households streams that can be recycled together are about 75% of landfill volume. Not all of that comes from the home, but in theory, we should be able to get our 32% diversion rate up to 75% with these programs.
[00:02:15] Jess: Yeah. There’s only so much we can pay attention to at any given point. And we’re all about baby steps here at mostly green. So we’ve tried to focus on what you can do in your house
[00:02:23] Mason: right now. The next time you buy stuff, right? That’s true.
[00:02:28] Jess: Some things matter a lot, but are harder. Like reducing plastics.
Some things are a little lower on the pole, but are really easy, like diverting food waste or organic matter as it’s called from the trash. And it happens to be the largest stream going into the trash. So let’s start there. There has been a pretty big increase in municipal and privately run composting operations in the last decade.
That’s a win, but still only four to 6% of the food waste. Huge opportunity there. And there are so many options to help.
[00:02:57] Mason: One of the most impactful statements from the series was Jeff pain of break it down saying that there’s no wrong way to compost. That relieves a ton of pressure for me. I mean, my dad was scientific with our compost pile as a kid, and I’ve always been really intimidated by it.
Anyone who has a backyard can do their own compost and all the guidance around layering and turning and specific things to put in there are really just to speed up the process. So. Backing up a little on how composting works is that bacteria in, from the air breaks down food scraps with yard and paper scraps mixed in with it into extremely nutrient rich dirt.
And we call that compost and that can go anywhere if it’s done right. There are a ton of different bacteria that can be involved. Some are good, some bad, some smells some down when it comes to how to get started. Here’s a list of options. Most people in the us have at their fingers. And we’ll post it, of course, in the show notes.
So the first, like Jeff talks about, it’s just throwing things in your backyard. You can literally just throw it out there and it’ll eventually disappear. Now, if you want to make it disappear faster than you can throw some leaves on it. So you can mix it with some things and make a pile and have a big pile and put things in the middle of the pile because the bacteria will be working fastest there to break things down.
If you want to speed up this process even more. Cause that. Months months and months for it to actually break down. So if you want to speed up the process, but still really just want to throw things in your backyard, they have bins. And so bins, some of them, you turn, some of them, you just dig into occasionally, but there’s a ton of bands out there and they all use oxygen for aerobic digestion of the.
And they can turn scraps into compost in much shorter timeline than making a pile of weeks. Instead of months, if you don’t have a ton of food scraps or you’re in an urban setting, you can try vermicomposting if you want, this is where it worms, eat the food scraps and turn it into compost. You are then, you know, cultivating living organisms.
So you need to keep them alive, but they’re pretty easy to keep alive and they work faster even than the turning. Another option is called. This uses anaerobic digestion, it ferments of food. It’s pretty fast, but you have a lot of additives within, and you can create compost in under two weeks, but what’d you create at the end of the Bokashi process is not finished compost, so you still have to go mix it with other soil and then wait a little while for the acidity to change.
So it’s a very compact option, but there are a lot of steps. The fastest option out there is technically not full composting. It’s dehydration. And that’s what we do. And we talked with Jeff a lot about that. We use something called the food, cycler, it heats and grinds your food scraps directly. You don’t have to add any leaves or paper or anything.
And creates a dry odorless additive that you can put out in your soil anywhere. And so it is a fastest way to break down your food scraps, but it’s not actual compost at the end. It’s just ground up dried food scraps. The thing we are excited about next is called the loamy. And so it claims like the food cycler to be a countertop unit and it can actually create finished.
It takes a little bit longer about 20 hours to create full compost, or it can dehydrate like the food cycler. So it’s a little more adaptive based on how much waste you have and when you
[00:06:25] Jess: need it and put links to both of the food cycler and loamy in the show notes.
[00:06:30] Mason: Yes. And we’ll do some other links with how to compost at home.
If you want to start with a backyard pile ratios, if you really want to get in and speed things up, and then some of the best bins that are out there.
[00:06:42] Jess: All right. Sounds easy. Well, I suppose some of the options sound easy enough. So divert food waste and a ton of good things. Well, In addition to less volume wasted when organic matter ends up in landfills, it breaks down and creates methane gas, a really bad climate change compounds.
[00:07:00] Mason: And another benefit of diverting is that your trash can, all of a sudden turns into a claim can that doesn’t smell all the time. And just, maybe you get some compost that you can use a fertilizer garden or trees, or that weird plant that popped up in the yard that you’re kind of rooting for just cause it’s just.
[00:07:17] Jess: Officially the next largest stream by volume is plastics. But in terms of household waste streams, it really boils down to packaging. So that’s food, packaging, home goods, packaging, all of that. And for the home, this is a big old, mixed dream of a million different materia. We’ll discuss recycling more later, but a lot of it is not recyclable or rarely gets recycled.
So this is where choosing brands that reduce or eliminate non-recyclable packaging becomes the best solution. Let’s look at laundry detergent. As an example, the U S alone does more than 30 billion loads annually. So for some quick math, one of those bulky 100 ounce bottles of regular liquid detergent is typically good for about 32.
So 30 billion loads of laundry divided by 32 loads per container equals 937,500,000 of plastic detergent jugs.
[00:08:07] Mason: You could probably round that up to a billion. Yeah,
[00:08:09] Jess: that sounds cleaner. Well, that is a lot, especially knowing that the majority aren’t being recycled. Fortunately, there are several amazing companies that are helping us cut down on our waste.
With low packaging options drops is what we use in our household. But blue land in seventh generation also have detergent, pods, and true earth also offers detergent sheets that arrive in. Each of these brands also offer other reasonable packaging products for the home, like hand soaps, dish soap, and other home
[00:08:37] Mason: cleaners.
When you see something like detergent or hand soap and plastic bottles, just say, no, there’s plenty of good options.
[00:08:46] Jess: Yeah. Tons of options out there. And the bathroom is also another place to take a good hard look at when it comes to packaging. Make sure you use what you have until it’s completely gone.
And that is a great first step and then properly rinsing that bottle and disposing of it.
[00:09:01] Mason: You want to have your news soap before you run out of the first one, right? And then you want to use the new one, especially if you’re trying something new. So I’m, I’m guilty of having multiple bottles of shampoo in the bathroom.
[00:09:17] Jess: And another tip is if you have just a little bit left in the container, if you add some more. It also goes further. That’s
[00:09:23] Mason: true. So you don’t have to worry about running out completely because once you run out, you can add a little bit of water and wait for the new ones to arrive. Yeah,
[00:09:30] Jess: exactly. Soap bars are also a very easy step in eliminating waste instead of, you know, your body wash container.
But another bar, which is less popular, I would say our shampoo bars, but there are many brands that are coming out with these and it is also a very easy, low package bathroom swap.
[00:09:49] Mason: Yeah. I’m still very skeptical on that. A shampoo bar, they get all dirty in the bathroom. It just feels weird to use it. So I think there’s a big usage gap or barrier to use for the shampoo bars.
But if you use them out there, let us know. Cause I don’t. Yeah, let
[00:10:05] Jess: us know which the best ones are. I I’ve looked online and a lot of places say don’t give up, which I think is it showcasing that a lot of people don’t like them or some of them aren’t great. If you’re not ready to take the plunge with the bars though, refillable products are also a great alternative.
You can find refills at local zero-waste shops and online, you just bring your old bottles back to the store to refill it with new product, to avoid excessive package. Or shipping if it’s an online company, Lux refill is a new company here in town that we were introduced to recently, they offer all natural, organic bath and beauty products packaged and sustainable zero waste containers that can be refilled, reused, and never have to be through.
We haven’t gone by to the shop quite yet, but I do plan to write as our current shampoo products run out, they started as an online business, but they recently opened up a store just north of downtown
[00:10:55] Mason: Austin. I wish them the best. I have seen a lot of the. Zero waste stores come and go. And most of them have been around grocery, which is much harder because you do that so much more often.
And the inconvenience of refilling your own products while is very noble. There’s just a lot of people that aren’t going to do that. And so those haven’t made it, I really hope Lux refill does better bath and beauty products. You’re refilling it less. So maybe it’s less inconvenient to take it. I wish them the best, but that’s another one that has a tough road ahead of them.
[00:11:29] Jess: Bit of a different concept and hopefully this one works better. Yeah. So food packaging is another topic of concern. I mean, just take a look at your pantry or fridge and consider how much packaging you throw away. If you take a stroll through the bulk food section and see what swaps you could make by either bringing your own containers or stocking up in larger quantities, that’s an easy way to help minimize your food packaging waste.
Also in the produce department, you know, why not just buy the bunch of carrots that don’t have the plastic wrap over them? I feel like that was an easy swap that we made this year. And there’s tons of. Or produce items like that with, you know, bagged apples or bagged oranges or bagged avocados. Typically they’ll have the loose avocado or loose apples right next to it.
So you generally have the option and go for no
[00:12:15] Mason: packaging. That’s true. And I think we’re getting worried about 70. Success rate of taking our reusable bags to the grocery store. And you’ve been getting a lot better about these kind of mesh produce bags that still let the person see what’s in them. So when they weigh ’em and such, they know what they’re weighing, but it’s a reusable bag.
So those, we have found those to be easy enough for us to use them most of the time. Yeah.
[00:12:40] Jess: But sometimes the best you can do is just pick the one that only has one or two layers of packaging instead of three or four, like some crazy brands. But in the end, some of this packaging is going to have significant contact with food oils and such.
So you just got to throw it away. Anyway, if this is all that’s left in your trash can though you’re doing a great job. Luckily, most of the packaging for household goods is cardboard and recyclable plastic, but there are a lot of films and styrofoam that are not recyclable in curbside pickup.
[00:13:08] Mason: And so that in particular overlaps a lot with a growing stream in houses, electronics, cords, batteries, and all those sex toys.
All of this can be a little overwhelming, but in steps, one amazing company. TerraCycle TerraCycle started with Tom Zeki and a Vermont Costain operation selling liquified worm poop and used soda bottles. He was so passionate about waste. However that he couldn’t handle just using recycled bottles. They wanted to follow the entire life cycle and started campaigns to directly take back their ways that they can.
Since then they’ve partnered with other companies to take back those companies ways. And it looks like now on their website, there’s about 150 partnerships with consumer brands to take back their packaging, non-recyclable packaging and recycle them. Wow, that’s impressive. Yeah. In addition, they’ve created boxes to collect and recycle various household products.
And what we think is their best product is called the everything. It’s just a cardboard box with a bag inside and you throw just about everything into it. The list is exhaustive, but includes art supplies, fabrics, and clothing, office supplies, any shipping material and packaging. That’s not recyclable like all those Amazon and blue and white bags at Richie gutter hated small car parts, electronics and batteries, excluding lithium-ion and lead acid.
And those sex toys you tried once and never used again and other houses. Importantly, anything that is on the household hazardous waste list. Like those two battery types we’ll talk about later, should not go into TerraCycle by. So really, I think you just kind of have to remember what can’t go in them and know that you can throw anything else in there, which is what we do.
This is a paid program, so it’s not the most accessible or equitable. The manager does make our heart sing to be able to send all this stuff that we know still has value like electrical, cords and electronics. And no it will be handled properly. This box is the wish cyclers dream. If you don’t want to pay for a tear cycle box, there are usually take back programs for a lot of household goods, like electronics, TVs, packaging from stores, where you can drop them off.
Just poke around online until you find one. Next
[00:15:26] Jess: step is clothing. Fashion is an incredibly wasteful industry. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. Second to the oil industry. Wow. Yeah. And when I learned this, I was just blown away. I had no idea. Yeah. I was
[00:15:39] Mason: today years old when I learned that.
[00:15:43] Jess: Freshwater and ocean pollution from textile treatments and dyes that go into all of the clothing, the accumulation of textile waste and the emission of greenhouse gases are just a few examples of the disastrous environmental impacts of the
[00:15:55] Mason: industry. Article that there’s a desert and chili, just filling up with clothes from around the world, but mainly the U S they’re just dumping them in a desert.
Did that article
[00:16:07] Jess: have a picture of it? Yeah. Yeah. It was a picture looks.
[00:16:10] Mason: So what changes can you make to minimize your impact with fashion Jessica?
[00:16:15] Jess: So tip number one is just buying less overall. I definitely used to be a shopaholic and even though I miss it at time, oh, you’re not anymore. No, I’m not. I’m much better.
I’m much better, but I feel so much better knowing that I’m shopping more consciously than ever. And as the chief product officer of Patagonia said the most environmentally sustainable jacket is the one that’s already in your closet. Tip number two is buy clothes from sustainable brands. So this is really where you get to vote with your.
The more that we demand sustainable clothing, the more options will become available. And although there are so many cool brands popping up, there could be even more out there, but it’s been amazing to see the progress of the new companies. Some of our favorite brands include thread for thoughts. Oh my t-shirts all year to.
Girlfriend, collective reformation pact and the good teas beyond traditional clothes though. There’s also really cool swimsuit companies out there and here in Austin. And I stumbled upon one earlier this year called house of ZZ. That I’m a huge fan of and you look great in them. Thank you. Tip number three.
Don’t just throw away your clothes in the normal bins. A lot of recyclable, right? A lot of them contain synthetic non-biodegradable fiber. So definitely don’t wish cycle. These are. In Austin, the city provides a free pickup service where they send you bags to fill with clothes and schedules. A pickup donating to local nonprofits is also a great option.
Or if they’re so old, they’re vintage, you can now sell them on secondhand apps like Poshmark and thread up. Some brands even take back their used. So even if your city doesn’t have a program, most cities have organizations that have textile recycling programs. So search it up or throw them in your terrorist cycle.
Everything box. Another cool thing made well in Levi’s both work with blue jeans, go green to turn your old jeans from any brand in any color, any condition into housing insulins. The best part is both brands will give you credit towards future purchases and exchange for your donation. So any old blue jeans, you can ship them back to these two companies and they will do all of that hard work for you.
Tip number four is to thrift. I am a sucker for a good bargain. And here in Austin, there are several cool thrift shops where you can find some really unique articles of. Goodwill is also a great place to find some vintage digs.
[00:18:29] Mason: So I feel like there used to be a lot more thrift shops. I mean, there is a super cool one on south Congress.
It was from a church, but they had twice in three years, I was able to go and find the same amazing leather jacket. It was the exact same brand and everything, same size. Like, I don’t know if. Donated it. And then a couple of years later it was like, okay, I’m never going to wear this other one again, but it was, yeah.
So there’s some really cool spots in Austin, I think. Yeah, definitely.
[00:19:01] Jess: And they’re all on different price points to meet there’s, you know, there’s Plato’s closet, which is, I think a national company, but there’s Buffalo exchange. There’s even one that’s high end, which is called Moss on south Congress. So whatever your budget is for vintage clothes shop.
[00:19:15] Mason: tons of options out there. Yeah. You took me into that one and I was ready to leave in about 10 seconds when I saw it as a $220. T-shirt
[00:19:23] Jess: it was a pretty pricey thrift shop, for sure. So as you go to thrift shops, take yours in and leave with some other cool articles of clothing. If you don’t live in a hipster town, a really badass online secondhand clothing company called good fair, helps recover clothes that Goodwill and other thrift stores are unable to meet.
[00:19:41] Mason: it’s cool spot. And they have good branding that they put on their t-shirts as well. One of the smallest, but costly is in most dangerous streams is household hazardous waste. We have a closet full of old paint cans because I haven’t gathered them up to drop them off. This tree also includes motor oils, pesticides, which I hope you don’t have, but now you can give them away instead of putting them in the yard household cleaners.
If you’re not using natural ones, Weird things like mothballs, does anyone have multiples anymore?
[00:20:11] Jess: Isn’t that like what’s in your grandma’s closet.
[00:20:13] Mason: Grandma’s closet is the only place and then light bulbs, which should not go in the trash gas cylinders, and those other batteries, lead acid and lithium ion that are found in cars, not so much that household batteries.
And it takes either a bit of real work to take care of or. There should always be a facility in your town where you can take these items. So save them all up and just take them all together and drop them off. And most places in the U S you can pay for a pickup as well, but extremely important is that these don’t end up in the landfills.
If you’re worried about throwing it away. And you’re not sure, then just don’t and definitely don’t put them in recycling their contamination and they can destroy a whole load of. They can be dangerous for workers and create significant damage in the environment. The last household stream we’ll discuss, which doesn’t come around much is bulky stuff like furnitures and appliances.
What we have found in our research is that there are usually salvage yards that will come to you for most appliances, even if they’re not working order same goes for furniture and charitable organized. Habitat for humanity is an awesome organization. And as a store called the restore, that will take all kinds of things from furniture to building supplies, to appliances, and they resell them.
They’ll even take damaged goods and sometimes repair them or resell them. You know, not completely perfect. Yeah. We’ve
[00:21:36] Jess: gotten some cool things there before. Yeah. I’ve taken a lot of
[00:21:39] Mason: stuff there. Right. And we’ve got a couple of things where they were missing quite a few screws. And so I had to do some repair on my own, which was fine for that item.
Our research indicates that in most towns, there’s something like this that will pick up. And as you’ve heard before, we’ll have a list in the show notes. If you don’t think your local nonprofit can use an item of last resort, which has been really a high success rate for us is to put it on social media marketplaces as free for pickup only, you can put it out by the curb or arrange pickup with someone.
And I don’t think we’ve ever offered an item for free that didn’t get picked up.
[00:22:12] Jess: And I think some of my favorite days are cleaning up the garage and posting things for pickup on Facebook marketplace,
[00:22:18] Mason: get a real joy out of that. I
[00:22:19] Jess: do. So what’s left for the landfill. Hopefully not much at all. If you do all of the things, we’re still trying to implement a bunch of these at our house, but we figure it’s going to take a while before we get there.
The important thing is making it a habit. And for that, we suggest starting small pay attention to the things that you put most in your trashcan. And start there, ask yourself if there’s an easy fix to reduce waste, if not, that’s cool, but just move on to the next thing and down the list. Really, it’s just doing one thing at a time and trying to stick to.
We’ve been food cycling for years. And at this point there’s still times where there’s too much backlog or we make a big meal and some of it goes in the trash can I guess now, so we’re throwing it in the backyard. That’s Jeff Payne’s podcast, but sometimes your food scraps are gonna land up in the trash and that’s always going to happen from time to time.
And once you get into things like what to do with large packaging, it does take some time and effort which may be in short supply at. Feel free to reach out to us anytime and ask about particular things you were at.
[00:23:18] Mason: Okay. So now we have to revisit a part of the above. That is a solvable challenge, but is an absolute crisis mode plastics.
The guardian did a long and exhaustive investigation, nonpolitical they’re very middle of the road and really brought to light. The crisis that we’re in their photos were just shocking in most areas of the U S. I see it cause we’re sending it around the globe and making it someone else’s problem that is unsustainable and itself.
As we’re running out of countries to dump on, China’s stopped taking our plastics in 2017 and that waste got diverted to places like Thailand and Turkey, which are now in environmental crises. And we’re moving on to other countries. We’re basically roaming around the world for people to dump on and it’s going to end at some point.
Those articles about how recycling gets thrown away anyways. And there’s no point are mainly clickbait funded by plastic companies we dug in and they’re just not true. They’re really only talking about plastics, but reducing our recycling rates doesn’t do anyone any good? We all should try to be good recyclers because of these marketing campaigns.
As we mentioned, recycling rates have decreased in the last five years, but this extends even to non-plastic recyclables, which have dramatically higher recycling rates and plastics last pretty much forever break down into smaller plastic pieces called micro plastics that are being found in our blood and our organs and everywhere on the planet, you can find plastic.
[00:24:53] Jess: Yes. Yeah, I think we get it for sure. Well, there are amazing companies looking to solve these problems and find more uses for old plastics. The only real solution here is to reduce plastic usage, but let’s do a quick rundown reminder of how to recycle plastic. First step is to always rinse plastic food containers.
No recycler can take a plastic container caked with. Next look at the number in the arrows, which should be stamped somewhere.
[00:25:19] Mason: The plastic numbers one and two are called polyethylene and high density polyethylene. So to get a little geeky here, how plastic is created as they take a small hydrocarbon from oil called ethylene and get them to stick to each other and basically make a long.
And that is a polyethylene. Then they get them to cross bond and stick to each other in different ways and stick in different organizations to get higher density polyethylene. An important point here is that 97% of plastic bottles sold in the us. Our ones and twos. So polyethylene is really what matters when it comes to recycling plastics and is the biggest part of the household plastic waste strain.
So this is where in the home, you can make a difference, but we’re told by Richard getter of bell county, that these are highly recyclable and there’s a robust market for it. So don’t pay attention to those articles. These need to be recent. The key here is to have a clean stream, which sounds more like a drug test prayer.
I used to say, but just means rinsed with low contamination of unrecyclable. So regardless of what happens to it after you recycle it, always recycle ones and twos have significantly less importance making up. The other 3% of home recyclables is numbers three through five polyvinyl chloride, low density, polyethylene, and.
You’ll see occasionally on packaging and go ahead and recycle it. But avoiding is better because these are less recyclable than ones and twos. And there’s a harder market for post-consumer products. If you see a number six and seven, just run away. These are not recyclable in curbside programs and should be avoided if at all possible all styrofoam cups and containers are in this as well as a lot of to go containers.
Unfortunately, if you can refuse them. In Texas, there are towns that I feel like must be next to a styrofoam manufacturing plant, because it seems like everything is made of it. I feel like they’re going to hand me a styrofoam fork to use with my fucking meal. So when we can’t refuse them, if everything is made of it, we still use them.
And we try not to feel like a horrible person because we know it’s the only option we have there. And we know that in other situations, We will avoid them. Road trips are the most often plays where we run across a bunch of styrofoam. And I think we have, we’ve got up to about a 75% success rate. I keep using that number.
It’s a pretty good round number, I guess, but I think about 75% success rate of bringing our own reusable, drinking bottles, Yetis, and our now jeans, I think are our favorite for when we’re traveling, let us know what you use when you travel and what your success rate is for reusable
[00:27:59] Jess: bottles. Okay. So avoiding plastics is best for them.
Even if home’s avoided plastics completely, there are still a ton of industrial uses and we’ll still be able to buy shoes and bathing suits made from old plastic bottles. So don’t worry about that. So for the home, almost everything that’s made of plastic could be made of other materials
[00:28:18] Mason: from a recycling reuse perspective.
Here’s what it looks like, ranking the best alternatives for plastic. The first one is aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable. Currently has a 90% recycling rate and 60% of the aluminum. In the market right now is made from recycled aluminum. It’s been a can many times before. It’s really cool from a packaging perspective and companies like the ball aluminum cup, or even trying to go after the red solo cup at sporting
[00:28:49] Jess: events, that’s going to take over, I mean, beyond sporting events and colleges.
[00:28:56] Mason: hopefully it’s really cool. Anytime you see aluminum packaged anything, go for it. We’re not sure aluminum belongs in deodorant yet, or whether cooking in aluminum foil is good for you. Don’t buy tomatoes and aluminum because it can degrade and create some kind of nasty chemicals, but from a packaging perspective, it’s great.
And always, always recycled. If you can’t find a recycling bin, this is the one where. Take that shit home and put it in your home recycling bin. The next one is glass glass gets a tad bit more complicated. It is technically infinitely recyclable, and it’s just made up of sand. So it’s not going to wind up in your grandkids blood, unless they’re eating sand on the beach as well.
But the us is handling glass poorly and recycling programs are going away. Only 25% of consumer glass produced annually is being recycled right now. Really? Why? So I dug in the biggest component is single stream recycling where you mix all recyclables together and they’re sorted back at the.
Multistream is where there’s a different bin for each recyclable. So glasses his own stream and multistream settings, 90% of glasses recycled into new glass products. But in single stream settings, that number goes down to 40%. And why is that? This has a lot to do with class being heavy. A lot of contamination.
There’s a lot of food that gets in with glass and the fact that it’s hard to transport and it breaks fairly. Here in Austin, Richard getter said broken glasses, fine dug into that. They do well with broken glass, but a lot of municipal facilities do not. So check your local recycler for whether they specify that they can take broken glass or not.
And if they don’t, you just got to throw away that glass. Unfortunately. So the takeaway is that the glass you use most often is a great alternative to plastic. Keep buying it and. Recycling
[00:30:51] Jess: it next step is paper products. These have similar complexities in different ways to glass, some ups and some downs, much higher recycling rate than glass was 68% being recycled.
Anytime you can buy something in a cardboard box instead of plastic, definitely do it. The only real drawback is that it’s not infinitely recyclable like glass or. To a lesser extent. It has some limitations on its use as plastic alternative because it gets wet,
[00:31:17] Mason: you know? Yeah. Yeah. Some things just fall right through.
So the last little bit that was kind of sad as compostable plastics. It’s sad because it’s a very well-intentioned intervention and we all love seeing it when it came around in the last 10 years, but it’s causing more problems. it can only be composted in large industrial operations. So if you get curbside compost from your municipal waste facilities, you can include them in the compost.
Most people don’t have curbside though, as we’ve discussed. And most of these cups end up in the recycling bin where they end up being contamination. Well, they cannot be recycled at all and usually get big, lots of recyclables thrown to the landfill. If they see there’s enough of these compostable cups in that in the landfill, they do break down like other organics and create methane gas, which is almost never harnessed.
And as we talk about as a. I see climate change compounds. So just say no to compostable plastics, unless, you know, for a fact it’s going to the right type of compost facility, which I think will be one of the hardest things. Cause it, you know, it’s got the grain all around it and it’s like, this is so much better.
And yet the right thing to do with that is to throw it in the
[00:32:34] Jess: trash. And I wonder as it’s being made, what the carbon footprint of it is like, is that much lower than regular plastic? Are there, is it better in some ways? Like which ways is it better?
[00:32:45] Mason: Um, the ways that it’s better is that if it ends up not being properly disposed of it does break down, not into plastic.
So it will break down into a natural compound eventually, although it can still take a hundred years, but you’re not going to end up with microbeads. Uh, compostable plastics, 500 years down the road, like you will with plastic. So that’s really, the only thing is if it ends up in the ocean, it doesn’t last.
[00:33:14] Jess: So a better alternative to plastic, but still don’t opt for it. Correct. Gotcha. Well, that was a ton of information. We just threw out you. We are so thankful to all of those who answered our phone calls about waste and especially our podcast guests who educated us over the last several weeks for this household waste deep dive, shout out to Stacy Savage of zero waste strategies.
Richard getter of balconies resources and Jeff pain of break it down. If you missed any of their episodes, we encourage you to go back and listen for a more thorough conversation per topic. We’re kicking
[00:33:46] Mason: off our weekly giveaway today. Yeah, I got it. For those of you who are unfamiliar, we have two levels of the mostly green crew on our website with subscriptions of $5 a month and $25 a month.
Yearly subscription helps to ensure we mostly green can continue doing what we’re doing and build out all of our wonderful upcoming plans. We’ve got so much that we want to do much more investigative reporting, a lot more podcasts. We have mostly green tours coming up where we’ll we can invest in. On site at places and highlight sustainability initiatives we’ll will also send you some swag for.
But the coolest part is that you’ll be automatically entered into the weekly giveaway we do on this podcast. We’ll give away items with the average value of 25 to 50, but occasionally we’ll do up to $250 per giveaway. Be sure to listen until the end of each podcast. Because that’s when we’ll give it away and you have to have heard it on the podcast to call us and let us know that you would like to redeem your price.
All right, drum roll, please. Do we have a drummer on here?
This week, we are giving away a huge prize, our most favorite item from this podcast, the everything box from Terracycle, valued at $199. <You have to listen to the podcast to learn the winner and claim your prize if you’ve won>