When I was in the working world, my professional life was all about children with special needs. And I frequently had to answer questions about diet and nutrition. In truth, while I had some minimal education about nutrition in school, most of what I learned came either from being on Weight Watchers most of my adult life (OK, without much long term success!) or from my own reading. I lived my own life for years as if Skittles and Ben and Jerry’s were 2 of the 4 major food groups.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the committed, amazing parents of the wonderful children I worked with for 25 years. Because of their concerns about the effects of pesticides and other chemicals on their children’s development, I went out and educated myself beyond what I had learned in school (which was pretty much nothing).
So I want to share two resources with everyone. One, which I have been using for years, is the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, lists of foods that their research shows should be eaten only if grown organically and those that are OK to eat without the organic certification. If you go to www.EWG.org there is a printable list for both. Some people feel that the EWG goes too far in its recommendations; personally, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Yesterday I read the latest edition of Consumer Reports (October 2020) where there is an excellent article about produce and pesticides. I don’t know if you can access this article if you don’t subscribe to Consumer Reports, so here are the Cliff Notes:
TAKE HOME POINT – PAY ATTENTION TO THE PESTICIDES IN PRODUCE AND BUY ORGANIC WHEN IT COUNTS!
SO… HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM SLASH YOUR WASTE SEPTEMBER
Paper and cardboard recycling presents different challenges from steel and aluminum cans and glass. Unlike these materials, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. As paper is recycled, the fibers in the paper become shorter and shorter. Eventually, the fibers become too short and can no longer be used in making new paper products.
Recycling paper has become more difficult in the past few years. For many years, China took the vast majority of American recyclables for processing. Then, a few years ago, China stopped taking our trash. I guess they decided they were having enough trouble dealing with their own garbage. Evidently, China was paying well for our garbage. When the Chinese market for our recyclables shut down, things were really a mess. Nobody would pay their prices, and there was a huge scramble for new places to send the trash. Things are still pretty messed up. And paper and cardboard are really a problem.
Paper and cardboard need to be clean in order to be recycled. They cannot be contaminated with food, or grease in particular. If a piece of paper or cardboard in a batch is contaminated, the whole batch is contaminated. And here’s the thing. In this country, we use single stream recycling. That means we put all our recyclables in the same bin. The potential for contamination of paper products is high when different materials are mixed.
According to Athens Services, the company that deals with our trash, cardboard and paper are being shipped overseas. This is because there are not enough mills for processing recycled paper in the US; the sheer amount of paper and cardboard we are sending for recycling has outstripped our capacity to process it domestically.
For the past 3 weeks, we have left our paper and cardboard out of our recycling bin to see just how much we waste we generate. WOW!!! It’s HORRIFYING!! The amount of cardboard and other paper and plastic waste from the things we are buying on-line is AWFUL! I know that with Covid we have increased our use of Amazon, but seriously! IT’S TIME TO STOP!
As the Covid pandemic has worn on – and on, and on, and on – we know more now about how people contract the virus. While my husband and I are both considered “at risk” due to advanced age (I am rolling my eyes in disgust), it does seem that it is pretty safe to go out into the world for brief excursions, as long as we wear masks, wash hands, etc. In truth, we have gotten so used to the convenience of on-line shopping, that it is hard to turn the clock back to an earlier time. I think it is safe at this point to be out in the world, of course paying attention to wearing a mask and avoiding crowds, and starting again to do routine shopping in person and locally that we have been doing on-line since the pandemic started. Carefully returning to pre-Covid shopping habits will help decrease cardboard waste and all of the other packaging waste and energy expenditure that goes along with on-line shopping and in-home delivery. Of course, this approach may need to change depending upon the guidance given by State and local public health authorities.
I am channeling Nancy Reagan here – words I NEVER thought I would write! – when I say that we are trying to adopt a JUST SAY NO! attitude toward on-line shopping in the interest of decreasing the cardboard that comes into our home. Wish us luck!
So what about www.plasticfilmrecycling.com?
I’ve always wondered just how trustworthy the plastic film recycling process is. First of all, and I know I’m going to sound like a conspiracy theorist, plastic film recycling is sponsored by various companies and organizations representing the packaging industry. Secondly, I haven’t been able to figure out the end market for this plastic film. Where does it go? Who uses it? As with most of the questions I’ve asked about where our recyclables go, I haven’t been able to find any answers.
Today I found an interesting blog posted by The Ecology Center in Berkeley. Check it out:
In short, the research indicates that this plastic film isn’t being recycled into much of anything – because there is no viable market for it. And that’s the problem with recycling. Everything we send for recycling CAN be recycled. But if nobody wants to process the materials, there’s no market and it goes nowhere.
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that we really need to re-think our attitude about recycling. For years, we were able to kid ourselves that recycling was profitable for the people collecting the materials. And it was – when we were sending our junk to China. But now, things are different. There is no reliable market for our recyclables. And there’s no place to send it that isn’t a moral disgrace. Sending our garbage to developing countries who do not have the infrastructure to deal with it is unacceptable.
So that means that SOMEBODY needs to pay for recycling our waste. Recycling is probably not profitable from a dollars and cents perspective. But it DOES profit the planet – and that ultimately means all of us. Either we the people – the consumer – or the manufacturer is going to have to foot the bill for dealing with recycling. My guess is that either way, Joe and Jane public are going to foot the bill. But really, what choice do we have?
The plastic crisis is real. Landfills are filling up with plastic that will never, ever decompose. The fish in the ocean are full of little tiny plastic pieces that we are eating. It’s everywhere. Continually making new paper from virgin wood destroys forests - a critical part of the environment that helps us all survive. And recycling metal and glass is more energy efficient and respectful of natural resources than manufacturing these materials from the raw ingredients.
SO IT MAKES SENSE – RECYCLING IS HERE TO STAY. BUT NOW WE HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. NOTHING IS FOR NOTHING, IS IT?