Good Morning. I hope you managed to survive our inland hurricane last week. We missed the excitement, but not the cleanup!
Today, I want to tell you a story that begins when I was still a kid in the '70s. In 7th grade, I had to write and present a persuasive speech. I chose, even then, to talk about waste reduction. I don't know if I persuaded anyone else, but I managed to thoroughly scare myself, that one day we will be mining landfills for metal, and I have been working to reduce waste ever since.
This is also about the time plastic started showing up in more and more items. I don't remember worrying too much 50 years ago, because I didn't think of plastic as something we would run out of, and i didn't realize that one day we would be drowning in it!
And then , in the 90's when plastic was everywhere, something new showed up-- that little recycling symbol.
Oh! We can recycle that now.
Oh! We can recycle it now
That's what I thought, and it's probably what you thought. So we all happily tossed our plastic in the recycle bin, and off we went. Then, in 2018, our recycling process became a lot more visible.
Here are some of the things we learned:
There are hundreds of kinds of plastic, not 7, and you can't mix them.
Recovering all the different shapes and sizes of plastic is a nightmare, even if you can pick out the type you want
Most plastics can only be recycled one or two times
Only squeaky clean plastic can be recycled
Companies change their plastic blend more often than they change their recycling symbol
It is much less expensive to make new plastic than recycle it
Most of our plastics are shipped out of country, where they are picked through for the small amount that is recyclable, and the remainder is burned (often for fuel), buried, or dumped at sea
Only plastics 1 and 2 and rarely, 5 are recycled in the US, and only if they are not contaminated
Only about 20% of plastics 1 and 2 are recycled
Here are some sources and more information about recycling today:
How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled NPR
Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic NY Times
Plastics Industry Insiders Reveal the Truth About Recycling Frontline
Unheathy Air and Plastic Waste: The Nexus of Pollution, Public Health and Corruption Asia Global
How Up to 180,000 Tonnes of our Plastic Ends Up in the Sea RTERecycling in the US is Broken. How Do we Fix it? Columbia University
How much Plastic Actually Gets Recycled? Livescience
A pleasant, cheerful woman came up to me in the market a few weeks ago, and when I started talking about reducing plastics, she said "Oh, no worries! I recycle!" As you have seen here, all the best of intentions is not going to be enough recycling! And, these plastics end up in lots of places we don't want it. It is entombed in landfills for eternity, or until it becomes a toxic chemical that we don't want in our water. It gets shipped to less developed countries and burn, damaging the lungs of the people who live there. It ends up in our water system, including the ocean. It is broken into microplastics and eaten by creatures at the bottom of the food chain. It has been found in human and animal cells. This is an untenable situation.
We need to do more. Recycling is never going to be efficient or cost effective enough to solve plastic waste, even if it gets better than it is now. . So what can we do? Reduce, reuse, recycle just isn't enough any more.
We need to really expand our efforts. Take a look at these nine Rs from the GypsySoup Blog.
Rethink. Do you really need that? Can you get it used? Can you rent or share or borrow or make do instead? Can you get it used in paper, in glass, in bulk, unpackaged?
Refuse. I start every food order with "no straw or plastic cutlery, please. And I end them that way too. And then when they show up in my order, before I touch it, I say, oh, I'm sorry, you forgot to keep the straw. Can you grab it? Refusing isn't always easy!
Reduce. We have heard that for years. Keep it up!
Reuse. Do you have anything that you can make work? Plant your seed starts in an egg carton? Use an old spoon for a beach shovel? Dust with a worn out T shirt?
Re-gift. You are never going to build a fence again, but can someone else use that post hole digger? That lovely 3rd fondu pot you got for your birthday? Maybe you have a friend who would love it! I am loving 'buy nothing' facebook pages for regifting things as well as for being gifted things someone else is done with.
Repair. I know, it will probably be easier to buy a new vacuum, and surely faster, but you have to throw that whole thing away because you need a new cord? Bet you can fix it!
Rent. How often do you really use a carpet shampooer, or an 8 passenger van? Can you rent one when you need it?
Recycle. You really needed it. You used the dickens out of it. Now, can you recycle it?
Rot. If you managed to avoid the plastic, can you compost what you have left?
Avoiding plastic is a big one, that gets harder every year. The only power we as consumers have, is with our dollar. Make the plastic free choice. Even if it's a little less convenient. Vote with your dollars and your feet.
Wild Waters can help by providing plastic free options such as our hand crafted bar shampoo and our solid dish bars in our Sustainability Corner . Do you know, or have a local business that can help us avoid plastic? Share!
A few years ago, early in 2018, I spent a few Tuesday afternoons at the offices of SLCGreen, and I was certified as a Master Recycler. This was a sobering and eye opening experience. I saw a newspaper unearthed from the landfill recently. Date? 1960-something. I was assured that it probably had not been in the landfill that long, probably not more than 40 years. But, you could still read it. Things don't break down like you think they might, in our sealed landfills. And when they do, those newspapers and hot dog buns are mixed with plastic diapers, old paint cans, and tires, and mattresses. The things they break down into are downright scary!
EcoTip # 212 There is no "Away".
You might have an image of the landfill as a big hole in the ground where stuff gets dumped. But, it is more complicated than that. All those toxic chemicals need to be contained and kept out of the ground water (we all hope). Things need to be kept from blowing away (as much as possible). It all needs covered daily to prevent (or at least reduce) rodent infestation. It is expensive, it is difficult, and it is dangerous. And, landfills have a tendency to fill, after which we need a new space. Again, expensive. Learn More about Landfills.
This is why our new MRF is so exciting! MRF stands for Marterials Recovery Facility. You probably noticed back in 2018, recycling got a lot more complicated. Before that, our recycling was roughly sorted, and sent to countries like China, where they picked out what they could use, and burned or buried the rest. It really wasnt working well at all. China announced in 2018 that they would only accept materials that were 98% pure! As the standard at that time was 80%, and all the Utah facilities where still low-tech, where only the roughest sorting was done by machine, with the final sorting done by lines of men and women surrounding a series of conveyor belts, it was a nearly impossible standard.
According to SLCGreen:
What’s different at this MRF, you might ask? Well, the facility is comprised of a network of machinery equipped with advanced automation capabilities and sorting optics. Rotating fiber screens, ballistic motion separators, 2D and 3D optical sorters, and barrel magnets are among technologies used to separate materials. More than 2.5 miles of fast-moving conveyor belts carry materials through this single-stream processing facility.
Waste Management's MRF can process up to 280 tons of materials a day, and is currently processing about 600+ tons of residential waste a day. Remember, the cleaner the things you toss away, the easier it is for them to do their job, so check your city's list often, and recycle carefully. Here is Salt Lake City's list.
Remember, that is not only materials given a second life, its materials diverted from the landfill, giving our landfill a longer life.
Follow SLCGreen on Facebook, to learn more about Waste Management
Plastic Free July was the brainchild of the Plastic Free Foundation starting in 2011. They offer the opportunity to take the plastic free challenge and learn to lessen the amount of plastic in your life. Whether you have been taking the challenge for the past 9 years, or you just now heard of it, you can make a difference. This year, over 250 million people participated in the challenge in 177 countries (https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/) Did all 250 million of those folks avoid all plastic in July? I doubt it, but just imagine, if each of them refused a plastic straw 10 times in July, that is 2.5 BILLION fewer straws in the trash. I just checked--that's 2,204,622 pounds of plastic! What if each of them also replaced their toothbrush with bamboo (when the current one wore out), bought their rice or noodles in a cardboard box, and chose a salad dressing in a glass bottle? What if they put their sandwich in a reusable bag or glass storage container (or even a plastic one if you already own it), carried reusable bags to the grocery store, and used a refillable water bottle instead of buying disposable? What if they replaced their pretty pink and blue plastic cotton swabs with paper stemmed ones?
We don't need a few hundred folks doing plastic free perfectly. We need billions of people making their best choices day after day. Currently, microplastics are found all through our food chain and even in our bodies (eww!) Each time you make a plastic free choice, you are helping us move towards a better world for our children.
How else can we reduce our plastic consumption?
Use a natural bar shampoo, or refill your bottle at a refill store like Hello Bulk, Animaila, or Gradient.
Buy toothpaste tablets from these same stores, or make your own toothpaste. If you do this be careful to choose safe ingredients, and talk to your dentist about floride. Look for our personal toothpaste recipe in a future post.
Use a bamboo toothbrush sold in a cardboard box.
Shave with an electric razor, or a use a solid shaving bar and brush instead of shaving cream in a can.
Choose a compostable floss like our Dental Lace. Its made of tussah silk--coocoons that are collected after the moth has left, and comes in a refillable glass container. You can get vegan options, but they are plant based plastics, and my personal experience has not been positive enough to recommend them.
Use an all natural bar soap, not liquid soap in the shower and at the sink.
Choose paper stemmed or reusable cotton swabs instead of plastic.
Remove makeup with a washcloth not wipes.
Shop with reusable grocery bags and produce bags. If your store is not yet allowing these, use your cart to take items to the car, and bag there.
Shop at bulk stores like HelloBulk, or bulk bins as often as you can. Many , but not all of these places allow you to bring your own containers.
Choose items in glass jars over plastic. Glass is recycled locally in Utah.
Use a loofah instead of a plastic scrubby, and cloths instead of sponges. Try to use cotton, as microfiber sheds plastic fibers in to our water supply.
Use glass tupperware, repurposed containers or beeswax wraps and bags for food storage.
Powdered dishwasher detergent usually comes in paper boxes, and you can shop for safer brands.
Refill your dish detergent at a local refill store-- like the ones listed above, or use a solid dish bar.
Powdered Detergents are usually in cardboard boxes. There are many DIY choices if you want to try them. Check the Environmental Working Group for safer choices.
Use an all natural stain stick instead of sprays
Skip the dryer sheet or the fabric softener. Dryer sheets are not compostable, Fabric softener comes in plastic. Try using wool dryer balls to limit static in your laundry.
Out and About
Carry a "go kit" . Tupperware for leftovers, a mug for beverages, reusable silverware and straw.
In these days of COVID, you can't get coffee in your cup, but you can order it with no lid or sleeve, and pour it in to your own cup. Its not perfect, but it will keep your favorite local coffee shop in business.
Start your order with "no straw or plastic silverware, please. If they offer it anyway, don't touch it, or it has to be thrown away. Simply ask the server to remove it, and thank them for helping out.
These are just a few ways you can reduce plastic at home. Share your favorite plastic tip with us!
Thanks to UNsplash for the photos.
All Natural isn't a regulated term. So, it gets used in all sorts of ways. So, what do we mean when we tell you our soap is "all natural. We mean we start with fresh, nourishing oils and butters. Olive, Coconut, Castor, Avocado, and Rice Bran Oil. Shea Butter, and Cocoa Butter. In our shampoos we add Walnut or Jojoba Oil. Each of these oils and butters brings its own unique characteristic to our soaps, resulting in the skin feel you love.
Then we add lye, or sodium hydroxide sourced from a reputable dealer so that we know we are not adding any impurites to your bar. But did you know, there is no lye in your soap when you receive it? All of the lye has interacted with oil molecules to create soap, in a process called saponification. We always add lots of extra oils to soothe and condition your skin.
Next, we scent your soap, with essential oils sourced from reputable suppliers who assay each batch and provide us with the assay reports. As essential oils are natural products, there are always going to be folks who cannot tolerate some of them. Thus, we ensure we have a clearly identified product, added at skinsafe levels as determined by IFRA, and list it on the label for you.
And finally, we color your soap. You may have noticed that all ours soaps are earthy, botanical colors. There is a shortage of bright tones. This is because we seldom use micas in our soaps. (when we do, we choose micas colored with minerals.) Most of our colors are derived from a selection of carefully sourced clays, or from botanical products. The root of himalayan rhubarb, for instance, gives a lovely bright pink. Many plants; basil, neem, alfalfa, spirulina, for instance, give tones of green. Indigo and woad make beautiful blues. Paprika, saffon and turmeric provide yellows and oranges. Cocoa makes browns, and activated charcoal gives us the greys and blacks. These botanicals are added as oil infusions, teas, or powders, to give different shades and textures.
The last step is pouring the now colored and scented soap batter. This is where we get to play and be artistic. Shall we go for layers? swirls? Wisps of one color in a base of another? Maybe an In the Pot Swirl, combined with layering? Shall we try the new technique we learned in the latest cool soap video?
Whatever we do, a couple days later, your soaps are carefully cut and placed on the rack to cure for a month, ensuring that your receive a gentle, longlasting bar to start or end your day just right!
Good Morning! I hope that you have been finding safe and healthy ways to enjoy the outdoors in this time of Covid. We have been learning to camp and boat while social distancing. The first step has been to choose a community that will help this happen. If you don't have the support and agreement of the people you are with, everything is much more difficult.
Good social support also makes living an eco conscious life easier.
EcoTip # 777 Find a community.
I walked down the laundry isle in the store last week, and it didn't take much to realize that most people are still using the 60% of detergents that get a D or F on the Environment Working Group's website. I think only one or two of the 152 products that receive an A got any shelf space at all. No wonder its so easy to feel alone and helpless when you embark on your eco-journey. So today, I want to introduce you to some great folks and resources that can help you feel part of a great eco-community.
One great place I love is the Facebook group SLC Zero Waste. The moderators are wonderful young women with a real heart for living an eco-friendly life. Don't let the Zero Waste moniker scare you away. The group is happy to support everyone in their waste reduction journey, and they are a great resource for local information and resources.
Many neighborhoods in Salt Lake have local Buy Nothing Groups to help you avoid buying and to share things you don't need any more. See if your neighborhood has one.
We also are fortunate to have several bulk store in Salt Lake! Hello!Bulk Markets offers bulk foods, as well as cleaning and personal care products. They have done an amazing job continuing to provide bulk goods in this time of Covid-19 restrictions. animailia is a gift and personal care shop with a whole supply chain emphasis. One wonderful service they offer is the ability to bring your personal food waste to their shop to be delivered to the local digester, diverting it from the landfill! Check out their website for more details. lever Octopus is another local business that is helping divert waste from the landfill. They take donations of many craft and other items, and help you turn them in to new and fun crafts. They offer (in normal times) classes in their own facilities, schools, libraries, and other places. They have been involved in implementing our local Fix-it clinics with the Utah Recycling Alliance. They help bring art to kids, adults and underserved communities. Their shop is a wonderful place to spend time with your crafty kid or your crafty grandma. Check them out!
These are a few places where you can find community in your Eco-Journey. Where do you find community and support? Share with us on our Instagram and Facebook pages!