We can all agree that we are devotees of clever marketing. Snappy jingles, sexy celebrities, and colorful packaging lure us to buy (some) products that we don’t really need. For whatever reasons we buy what we do, reducing our consumption of superfluous packaging can go a long way toward saving our planet. It’s possible to get the products you need without unnecessary packaging.
Where Does the Recycling REALLY Go?
When I learned that China was no longer taking recycling from the U.S., I was like…
We’ve been shipping our recycling to China? We’re *not* doing that here?
Learning the truth popped my little green bubble. Deeply disappointed, I pondered what that actually meant.
Basically it’s that, once again, the U.S. was pawning off our crap on someone else. China made their requirements more strict and Americans, who just can’t be inconvenienced in any way, found other places to send our trash (because that’s what it is).
“The U.S. still ships over 1 million metric tons a year of plastic waste abroad, often to countries already overwhelmed by it. Experts estimate that 20 to 70 percent of plastic intended for recycling overseas is unusable and is ultimately discarded. One study found that the plastic waste exported to Southeast Asia resulted in contaminated water, crop death, respiratory illnesses due to toxic fumes from incineration, and organized crime.”
It also means that despite all the hoopla around recycling in America, our domestic programs and infrastructure were never developed. At all. It's a lie. I looked up my community to see how recyclables are processed and it said, “No community information is available at this time.” which probably suggests that the recycling trucks are right behind the trash trucks in line at the dump.
Only a small portion of our plastics are actually recyclable and even then, if contaminated in any way (like with food or grease or oily residues), they are thrown into the trash to live in a landfill for the next 1000 years.
Since our record of recycling in the U.S. is pretty dismal and, of course, we are slow to pick up responsibility (read: don’t hold your breath). Rather than take you down the rabbit hole of despair, I want to focus on what you can do now to help.
Embrace Reality and New Products
Understand that this won’t fix itself overnight. America is in crisis in general and sadly, addressing our “trash” problems are not high on any politician’s priority list. The only way to climb a mountain is one step at a time.
There are many products coming to market that not only have minimal packaging, but the manufacturers are consciously choosing already recycled goods for that purpose and those that can be reprocessed again and again. Find and choose those that have paper packaging rather than plastic.
Let’s look at personal care products like shampoo and conditioner. Not only are these products filled with fragrance that is bad for you to begin with, they are housed in plastic bottles that are not truly within the realm of “recyclable”. Numbered triangles on the bottom don’t mean anything anymore and really never did.
Have you ever tried shampoo and conditioning bars? Looking like a bar of soap, they are made with (truly) natural products like coconut and essential oils and take up far less space in your shower. And let me tell you…from a cleaning standpoint, also keep your shower much easier to clean periodically! No more sticky residue (think of that in your hair!).
I have to admit I was a skeptic. I have super-fine and thinning hair (thanks Mom 😐) and I always had to have conditioner to keep from ripping too much of it out after washing and to keep it statically calmed down. Now I only use a shampoo bar. My hair gets clean and if I wait to brush it and let it air-dry (a minute), then it’s easy. My natural golden red has come back (no gray!) and it’s as soft and strong as I would ever want it to be, without expensive products…or plastic bottles.
Same goes for body soap. Lose the body washes…again full of perfumes and chemicals that clog pores and stress out your skin. Buy a few bars at your local Farmer’s Market made by a local artisan. You will be supporting small business and the planet.
For your laundry, try detergent sheets. The sheets dissolve completely in the washer with no more gooey scum in and around your washer!
Practicing “conscious shopping” will prove how much less you can use and waste, and how much space you gain!