In our latest episode of Unpacking Recycling with Charlotte, we cover all things plastic. From what to do with plastic caps and bottles with different types of labels, to clamshell packaging, HDPE and more, Charlotte breaks it all down.
Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:
Waste360: Please tell people what they need to know about plastic recycling and how to do it well.
Dreizen: It’s a great question, and I’m so glad we’re tackling it today. Certainly this topic has become front-of-mind for folks. It’s helpful, I think, to first take a breath and know that it’s a very small chunk of our overall waste stream to start with, weight-wise. And it’s good to know that in most communities you can recycle many, if not most, of the plastic items that you may have on hand. One of the exciting things to know is that markets for plastics as a commodity are really strong right now—just about as strong as they’ve ever been.
Waste360: What’s the latest info people should know about plastic films?
Dreizen: Yes, we know it’s not only rigid plastic items we have in our homes and want to recycle; there are a lot of plastic films as well. It always surprises me that here in D.C., about one-third of our plastic stream is plastic films and bags, so it’s a really big portion of the stream by weight—so, by item count, we have tons of materials made of this. Some are recyclable; some are not. But, none are recyclable in the curbside system.
Plastic bags, no matter what they’re made of, if you put it in a blue bin—it will jam the equipment, and the entire facility will need to shut down for it to be cut out….which is one of the biggest ways that recycling workers get injured. And if you ever have a doubt, it’s better to put it in the trash rather than contaminating the stream. Many big grocery stores have plastic-film drop-off for recycling. And bags that we can recycle in this dedicated stream include dry-cleaning, cereal, takeout bags, and others from e-commerce—high-quality polyethylene. Polypropylene bags, which can’t be recycled in the film-recycling stream, are really crinkly—that’s the best rule we have when we don’t have a great way of differentiating it. We need better labeling.
Waste360: How are you feeling about recycled plastics being used in packaging—brands using it, and consumers adopting it?
Dreizen: Companies are using it more, and telling you that they’re using it more. And because we want to ensure there is a strong market for recyclables, we want to be putting recyclables into the system and also ensuring there is demand to bring them back. It’s not only important to recycle but also buy recycle—so I absolutely encourage people to look out for it. When weighing your options, and you see one option that has recycled content, vote with your dollars and get the one with recycled content.