I often hear from residents that they recycle EVERYTHING they can. But here is a question for you… do you recycle even when it isn't convenient? Let's have a moment of honesty: who has ever had a recyclable bottle or can that you put in the garbage? I know I have (forgive me… it was before I joined the light side). Lots of us don't recycle 100% of the time when it's inconvenient. You may think to yourself, I know I recycle all the time… but consider this: What if you’re out and you only see a trash can around? How long are you willing to hold on to that bottle before you give up and just throw it in the garbage? Ever been to a sports event, concert, or park and not seen recycling containers? When I was on vacation last year, I got a drink in a plastic bottle while walking around a city. When I finished it, I was disheartened to see no recycling containers around. I carried that bottle with me for about 30 minutes looking for a recycling container. When I could not find one, I decided to put it in my bag because I knew the bed and breakfast we stayed at had recycling containers. About a week later, when we got home and I was unpacking, I found that bottle in my luggage… and ended up recycling it at home. My husband and I had a BIG laugh over this. I am not saying that you have to be as crazy as me… but I wanted to drive home the point that you should be recycling away from home, just as much as you recycle at home. Ever been to a sports event, concert, or park and not seen recycling containers? It can be really frustrating to feel like you only have the option to throw something in the garbage, but you do have the choice to take that bottle with you to recycle later. Do you know how many bottles are recycled in NC each year? 80%? 50%? No… it's only 30%. That means that 70% of the bottle waste we generate is being buried in landfills. Recycling is a choice you make. Sometimes it's not always the easiest choice, but when you choose to recycle, you are helping create American jobs. How? When you recycle a plastic bottle, it can become a new plastic item like a bottle, container, or toy, but in Greensboro, it can also become something unexpected… yarn. Anyone wearing polyester? Or ever heard of polyester? Well, it's made from oil based products. The company Unifi is headquartered here in Greensboro, and has processing facilities in Reidsville and Yadkinville that transform plastic bottles into polyester yarn. The cool thing about this is that it's chemically identical to polyester sourced from oil, but created from recycled materials. The uncool thing is that the Reidsville plant that processes the bottles has to source recycled bottles from all over the US, as well as Canada and Mexico. In fact, all of the bottles collected from NC would only run the facility for one day out of the entire year. The plant literally is buying Mexico’s waste, because some are too lazy to recycle. Because I have been too lazy to recycle. Let’s change that. Can you join me in one additional New Year’s Resolution? Recycle all your plastic bottles this year. Simple enough, right? Maybe take it one step further and try to make sure your entire family recycles all of their plastic bottles, even if there are no recycling containers around when you are away from home. For more information and videos about plastic bottle recycling, visit www.yourbottlemeansjobs.org Recycle Away, Tori PS--Email me if you would like to share any of my Ever Wonder Wednesday posts in a community or HOA newsletter. I will be happy to share content and images with you. As always, if you have any additional questions about waste reduction, please do not hesitate to private message or email me at email@example.com.
By: Van Burbach PhD, PG-Environmental Consultant Many people have the idea that since cleaning products are used to clean our homes of dirt, germs, and filth to give us a “clean” living environment, that they are safe for us and our planet; but this is not the case. Many common cleaning products you can find on your grocery store shelves, and possibly under your own kitchen sink, are extremely toxic and very harmful both to human beings and to the environment. Links between use of common household cleaners and asthma and other respiratory illnesses have been well established. In 2018, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published the results of a 20-year study by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway which found that using cleaning products can be as harmful to women’s respiratory health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Also, household cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, many of which involve children. But these cleaners are also very harmful to the environment outside of our homes. The all-purpose cleaners, hand sanitizers, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and other cleaning products we use get washed down our drains and into our sewer systems. They are often treated at wastewater treatment plants: but most wastewater treatment plants are not very effective at removing the toxic chemicals from these products, so they end up released into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water supplies. A 2002 study conducted by the United States Geological Survey tested streams across the United States and found traces of detergent in 69% of the streams, and disinfectants in 66% of the streams. Common household cleaning products often contain hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of chemicals, many of which are known to be toxic to humans as well as to fish, birds, plants, and other living organisms. Some are also known carcinogens. Many others of these chemicals have not been studied thoroughly enough to know what their possible toxicological impacts might be. One group of chemicals of concern are phosphates, often found in laundry and dishwasher detergent. When released into a lake or stream, phosphates act as fertilizers, promoting growth of algae that decrease the water’s oxygen content, killing fish and reducing biodiversity. Another group of chemicals of concern are alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which are surfactants that are added to many laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and degreasers. Some APEs break down into nonylphenol and octylphenol, which are more toxic and do not readily biodegrade. APEs have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen, and their presence in water may be harming the reproduction and survival of salmon and other fish. It is not just the chemicals in our cleaning products that are the problem. The packaging those products come in can also have a very adverse impact on our environment. The proliferation of single-use plastic containers has caused major problems for landfills and recycling programs cannot keep up. In 2015, the EPA estimated that only 9.1% of plastic waste generated in the United States was recycled, and since China stopped accepting our recyclable waste, that number is probably lower now. All the excess plastic waste has caused a global crisis as these plastics end up in our waterways and eventually in our oceans. Shaklee has been a pioneer of non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products since the 1960s. Shaklee Basic H was one of the first official Earth Day products, and has been used by Jacques Cousteau, the Biosphere II project, the Whitehouse, and many environmental organizations and programs. Today, Shaklee is proud to offer a full line of household cleaning products that are free of toxic chemicals and are safe for you, your children, and the planet. And many of our cleaning products are concentrated, reducing the amount of plastic waste created. One bottle of Basic H2 can replace as many as 5000 bottles of other cleaners, keeping thousands of plastic bottles our of our waste stream. And you don’t have to sacrifice performance, as Shaklee cleaning products are amazingly effective.