Free! Master Recycler Plastic Roundup, October 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008
Two months ago, our family switched our garbage plan to one can a month and, after a lot of research and education on my part, have begun to recycle everything recyclable. Most plastic items have a number (1-7) at the bottom, and, if they can't go curbside, they are separated by number into bins. We have a bin for all other plastics that do not have numbers--think bottlecaps, plastic lids, broken plastic toys, straws, DVD's, etc. Then we have a bin for plastic film and plastic bags. Plastic grocery and produce bags can be recycled at most grocery stores, but there are so many more plastic films that come into the average home. Everything from the plastic film that seals perishable grocery items like sour cream or cottage cheese to cereal bags to shrink wrap and the wrapper around your granola bars can be recycled.

Some of these recyclables can be dropped off at the Far West Fiber locations, like plastic bags and film and other numbered recyclables that cannot be recycled curbside, but for items like miscellaneous, non-numbered plastics, these things can be taken to the Master Recycler Plastic Roundups, which happen three times a year. We don't really generate enough for me to drop off items at Far West on a regular basis, so right now, I'm saving everything up for the roundups. The goal is to have as little recyclables generated as possible, so we now use cloth produce bags, reusable shopping bags, and are now using SIGG bottles, reusable coffee mugs, and glass Pyrex containers for all our food. I also use tin and glass containers for Sam's lunch, so he has a waste-free lunch every day at preschool. But still, recyclables are generated, and it was a great feeling to pack up about 10 bags and take them to the roundup, knowing they would not be producing methane gas, a leading contributor to global warming, in landfills for years to come.

It was important to me to bring Sam along so he could see firsthand that we recycle and see this practice in action. It was also great for me to show him how many other people practice recycling as well. I made it into a special outing for the two of us. Because he has me as his Mommy, special outings most always consist of stops at coffee shops, and this morning was no different. We stopped at Starbucks, drank our beverages and ate our pastries of choice, then we were off to the roundup.

Sam was all smiles as we drove to Milwaukie, about four miles from our house, to the roundup.

We arrived early, and although there weren't a lot of people there yet, it was such a good feeling to see other people doing what we were there to do--recycle!

There were big bags, with seven stations for the seven different recycling codes, and then two additional stations for plastic film and miscellaneous, non-numbered plastics. They also had a station for larger items that people no longer wanted that were plastic and free! Think lawn chairs and kiddy pools. It was great to see them put reuse ahead of recycle when they could.

The volunteers were so friendly, and were a great source for questions and clarification about recyclables.

Many people who dropped off recyclables live out in the country, where not even curbside recycling is available. Thank-goodness we have weekly recycling service curbside, otherwise, I'd be forced to drop off recyclables weekly at Far West Fibers.

Sam helped me out by dumping each bag of our recyclables into the designated stations.

The station for plastic film had a crude demonstration of examples of what could go into this bin. The only mistake we made this time around, which was our first time, was putting in a few items that also include paper. Material used in seasoning packets, for example, which is part paper and part plastic, is considered garbage, as the recycling centers cannot break these materials down separately. We only had a few seasoning packets in our THREE garbage bags packed full of plastic film. This is the material we generated the most of, and the material I'm not sure if we can reduce much more than we already have. It's true we could buy cereal in bulk, but then there are grocery items like granola bars (yes, we could make our own), and chips, tortillas, etc. that come in plastic film. I also put all our Saran wrap in this bin. It's amazing how in just two months, three garbage bags were generated. Just think of how much plastic we'll save from the landfill over the course of our lifetime!

Sam was a happy and willing helper. We had a nice morning together, and what might seem like a chore, was actually fun!

Here's a picture of the miscellaneous plastics bin just after we'd dumped our bags in. (Sorry about the DVD of India pictures, Mike & Susan! Juniper got a hold of it and, well, it was no longer usable). You can see Tupperware, which we recently traded for glass in our kitchen (we want to eliminate as much plastic from our lives, especially in the kitchen, as possible!), broken plastic hangers, and DVD's. Lots of caps and straws. This will all be melted down by Agri-Plas, and new materials will be made. To read more about what Agri-Plas does, read their website. It is interesting to see where recyclables go.

Another thing I learned at this roundup was that for number 7 recyclables, if it says "compostable" or "PLA," then it is considered a contaminate and is considered garbage. We had several plastic items with the recycling code "7" on the back that we picked up at New Seasons, which often says "compostable" as well. These cannot be recycled, and unfortunately, cannot be composted in our backyard. They have to be put into the garbage, where, although they will break down more quickly than other plastics, will still produce methane gas. Compostable plastic sounds like a good idea in theory, but in actuality, it really isn't.

Some people sorted their plastics when they got there. My, oh my! We would have been there all day had that been the case for us. I am so glad we have a recycling center in place in our basement, so all that is required for us once we get there is to pour the items into their designated bins. In doing so, we are able to take all our plastic garbage bags back home to reuse once again for the same purpose.

I mustn't forget about this station--at all Master Recycler Plastic Roundup, there is a station for pots. 6 oz. and larger, rigid plant pots can be recycled curbside through Portland's Recycling program, but for all other pots, recycle them at the roundup.

Here's a picture of the reuse station. Remember we got to the roundup early, so there was only a little pile that had so far accumulated.

Here's a picture of a station of rigid plastics that were too large to be placed in the bags with the other miscellaneous plastics. They will go to Agri-Plas seperately. Notice that even the office floor mat can be recycled, as well as your broken Earth Machine! A good place to take these items would be Far West Fibers, as they have large bins for these items, and you can drop them off as you generate these items, as they do take up a lot of space in one's garage or basement.

Even by 10AM, an hour after the roundup had started, many many bags of plastics had been accumulated.

As I said, some people sorted when they arrived. I do not recommend this!

But some people don't have room for a station in their home for separating, so perhaps mixing together works best for them. It also depends on how much you generate.

Car after car pulled up to recycle. I love it!

The roundups are in different locations, but the closest one for us was Milwaukie. The roundup was held in the big parking lot of the Old Southgate Theater at 9600 Main St. Milwaukie, OR. There was plenty of room to organize your plastics, and separate them if need be.

And so we will wait four months until the next roundup, which I think will be in February.

What a great feeling to have dropped off so many recyclables! It's been a learning process, but now it's a part of our life and I don't even think about it. Instead of throwing something in the garbage, I throw it in our recycling bin beneath our kitchen sink. Every day, it's full, and I take it to the basement, and sort them out into the different bins. I also have a bucket of compostables to take to our backyard compost bin each evening, and each evening I dump our kitchen scraps, which includes napkins, tissues, and waxed paper, to our compost bin, I add carbon containing items from our yard, which we have plenty of this time of year with all the falling leaves. So far, my compost is hot and is breaking down quite rapidly. I love spreading around the compost, knowing how good it is for the garden, and again, how much we've saved from producing methane gas in the landfill.

1 comments:

Andrea said...

I read about this in the paper. I'm definitely going to look into for us next time. Thanks for always sharing such a great recycling information. My goal is to start the full recycling system in our garage by the end of this year!

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