A Material Girl Goes Green

Recycling 101 - You think you know but you DON'T

Episode Summary

Recycling rules have changed over the years...are you SURE you're doing it the right way? This episode tells you how to do ALL the recycling!

Episode Transcription

Lesley:                  So recycling, this is probably the one aspect that I have done for the longest within this. I can't even call that the journey, cause I've done that for. I've done recycling for quite awhile. Not correctly by any means, no judging out there. But I've always known that that was something that I could try to do. It felt like the easiest, most attainable thing to try. So even in my haphazard, my little way, I have done recycling for the longest. So let's start talking about some of the rules cause as I'm getting into it more, every piece of anything that I have to throw away, I think, okay, is this recyclable? Is this not recyclable? So again, I have a long list. Um, so Jody, can you help us on how to figure out what the recycling rules are?

Jodi:                       I can do my best.

Lesley:                  It is one of those things, the deeper you go into it, the, the more gray areas you run into. So it's best to try to keep it simple. Right? For sure. Well, and I'm kind of one of those people that if you start by kind of understanding the why behind it, because it does take time, right? Recycling not a lot of time, but people are so busy, they are living this fast, go, go, go, go, go lifestyle. And though more and more people are becoming much more understanding that this is an important way to live, right? That some of this recycling, when you look at the images, you, you think, wow, this can't keep going. Like this can't, if you think of the last five years how much worse it's gotten and you go eight years, 10 years, it's crazy. And it can't, we can't move and keep moving down that path and not start asking ourselves, what can we do different? So the why, why is recycling critical to our future? What, what, what if we don't? What if we just decided that this is what we're just going to keep living this crazy fast lifestyle that we've got.

Jodi:                       The why recycle is important to know. You're right. It. Um, and it's, and it's multifaceted to so, um, many people find recycling to, like you said, to be the most accessible part of becoming more eco-friendly. It's the thing that's been going on since the sixties and seventies that we all know about. Um, we talked last episode about reduce, reuse and then recycle. So that can be helpful to think about in that order. If you're reducing and reusing, you'll have less to recycle. And that's a goal.

Lesley:                  Yeah, for sure.

Jodi:                       Less things to recycle is, is easier and better. Um, but then I used to hold up and go, okay, now what do I do with this? What's this thing? Yeah. So, um, then when you get to the thing and you need to figure out if you can recycle it and how to recycle it, then I can help you with that. But the why, um, the why is because, um, landfills are a finite resource. Um, there's only a small amount of space on the earth where we can bury our trash. Um, and also nobody wants to live next to that. So they're becoming, um, scarcer to be able to build. And it's really not a solution to a problem. You don't really bury something in a hole and call it good and call it solved.

Lesley:                  So we shipped things. I didn't know this, but I'm learning now that we actually shipped our trash to other countries for a long time.

Jodi:                       We shipped our recycling to other countries.

Lesley:                  and now they're not taking it right.

Jodi:                       They're not taking it. So, um, recycling is another form of waste, even though it can be turned into other things. It's a waste product from whatever we used it from. So that was shipped to China and it was all processed there, um, for a long time. And, um, very recently it's no longer because they want to clean up their own environment,

Lesley:                  which means it's going to stay here.

Jodi:                       Yes. So it's piling up here, which makes it more important than ever for us to think about reducing first and then recycling correctly.

New Speaker:    Yeah, that was a new concept for me. Like recycling was kind of kind of, well, that was all I knew, right. It was all I really knew and knew how knew,

Jodi:                       okay,

Lesley:                  we kind of knew how to do. Um, so, but the fact that that should be the last thing you try to do is it makes so much sense now. But I just didn't think of it that way. That was the only thing I knew. So it was the one thing I did. But when that now becomes the last thing you try to do, it's just a completely different perspective of everything.

Jodi:                       It is. It is. And if you think about whatever natural resources are used to make the items that you use in your life every day from, you know, um, clothing to furniture, to your car, to everything you use, um, that somehow had to be mined, you know, drilled, dug, grown, harvested from the earth in some way, and it had to use a lot of energy, a lot of natural resources, usually a lot of water. So every time you make a product that uses up natural resources, so the idea behind recycling is to reuse the things that we've already used in as either to make the same thing again or make something else out of it. And therefore you're not digging up new minerals or whatever it is to make that thing.

Lesley:                  Yeah, absolutely.

Jodi:                       Um, and so is it common with recycling you can make the same object again or is that a lot of times, is it used in a different kind of a product or it's most often used to make a different product and to be honest, not to harp on the same thing.

Lesley:                  No harp, please harp,

Jodi:                       It's another reason to reduce and reuse first because oftentimes what we referred to as recycling is actually down cycling. Um, so plastics degrade every time you recycle them. They can't be made into as high a quality product as it was in the first place. Same with paper. It's um, downcycled each time into a less nice product. So, glass is infinitely recyclable metals are infinitely recyclable. Uh, they don't lose their properties. Those are nice that way, but some of them aren't. Downcycled okay.

Lesley:                  Okay. So let's get into the nuts and bolts of, and let me say, if you have not seen some of the images of what some of those non recycled products looks like, go look like, go educate yourself on this is what can happen when recycling doesn't happen or when things just get thrown into a landfill or into the ocean or whatever. Go look at those, of those images. So let's talk about the whys. Excuse me. So let's talk about the house. Um, of course I have a list. Like I said, I picked something up. It's done. I've used it. Now what do I do with it?

Jodi:                       Bring it on.

Lesley:                  Um, let's start with the kitchen and of course the big one. Plastic water bottles and lids. How do we recycle these?

Jodi:                       Okay, I'm gonna say a few more catch phrases for you. That will probably be repeated, but that's good. That'll help you remember. So the thing to remember is empty, clean, and dry. If you have a bottle that had a drink in it, you want to shake it. It doesn't have to be 100% dry. They say less than a tablespoon is quote unquote dry. That's good. Um, if you want to give it a quick rinse, if it was something like a protein shake or something like that, give it a quick rince. That would be great. Give it a shake. [inaudible] lids on for plastic bottles.

Lesley:                  I did not know that. I've been taken off. Do you know how many bags full of lids?

Jodi:                       I didn't know how crazy it is, but that is a controversial topic in my life. Fun. That is so fun. It's changed. It has changed and it may change again, but right now it's on empty, clean and dry lids on.

Lesley:                  Awesome. And that goes, so what I'm hearing you say is that goes for all plants. I mean that's just not water bottles. That's soda bottles, protein shakes. Now is that clear? And like the white ones and so it's across the board. Well that's an easy answer. Yeah. Clean, dry lids on. Yup. Tablespoon of what? Less than a tablespoon is. Okay. Okay, well that's good. I've done a totally wrong.

Jodi:                       A quick shakeout and your quick shake.

Lesley:                  Okay, cool. Um, the soft deli containers, so the softer ones I sometimes I'll get the rigid ones and then sometimes mostly like I'll get the round ones that are softer. They're a little bit more pliable than the rigid ones.

Jodi:                       if you can, if there's a number on there, that's a good indicator. One, two or five. Okay. Also empty, clean and dry.

Lesley:                  Okay. One, two or five. No food. Okay. So I'm sorry, back to the water bottles and the does, do the labels have to come off? No they don't. That's another thing. I've spent a lot of time getting those labels off of there.

Jodi:                       There's nothing wrong with removing them. That does increase the quality of the plastic. But the way, and I guess it might be helpful for people to know how, so the way that those are recycled, any kind of plastic bottle, they just all get ground up okay. Into a big grinder into small little tiny flakes of plastic. The labels, one type the bottles, one type the lid is another type and that goes in to a float tank. That's the way we do it separates. It separates it by type. So the float at different labels or I'm sorry, they float at different levels and then it can be sorted that way.

Lesley:                  That's brilliant. Yeah. Now I know not. Right. Um, so the hard plastic containers, the same like the more rigid, um, and again I'm thinking bulk, like I've gone to the bulk store and gotten things and that it feels like it's just, uh, like I could crack it if I would be in it. Um, spices. It mostly was from a bulk store. Okay. So it was really, it was really a hard, and I didn't look at the number that we have to talk about the number in numbers in a minute.

Jodi:                       Yeah. So same rules, just make sure there's no food debris in there and it's a number one, two or five. You're good to go.

Lesley:                  Good to go. Okay. One, two, five. Good to go. Um, cans. So vegetable, like the tin cans, are they tin or are they aluminum or they're called tin, but I don't think they're really 10. They're steel food cans. Okay. Yeah. What about those?

Jodi:                       Um, you want to rinse it and label does not need to be removed. It's nice if you do, but they melt those down so the label, the paper will actually burn away. Okay.

Lesley:                  Good to know. That's another thing I've wasted a lot of this is going to be so much quicker now. Wow. And the reason,

Jodi:                       and I mean you might say, well wouldn't the food burn away too would, but you don't want the opportunity for any food debris to contaminate all the recycling since we utilize mostly a shakes recycling, it's in the, it's in the bin, you mean?

Lesley:                  Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah, that's, it can get sticky and stuff, so yeah, it can get totally gross. Um, so the plastic milk bottles,

Jodi:                       same as your other plastic bottles. Just a quick rinse and little ink and lid on lid on.

Lesley:                  It's going to get me for awhile.

Jodi:                       I know.

Lesley:                  Ziplocs bag. Yeah. The Ziploc bags,

Jodi:                       those, um, can actually be recycled, not with your curbside and not like if you use one of the drop off sites that the County operates, but those can be recycled at the store with your grocery bags. So you've probably see it. Yeah. You've probably seen that. Been for the grocery store.

Lesley:                  I totally take my stuff there. I had no idea.

Jodi:                       Again, they ha they have to be food free. Um, not like sterile, but just like instant dry. I mean like white rice. Fine. Yeah. Um, and those can go with your grocery bags. you can do pred bags, you can do res, um, like the wrap around your newspaper or around a case of water bottles or the real paper time. Like the feeling kind of flexible film is what it's called.

Lesley:                  I had no idea. So can I like stick them all in a bag and put them in?

Jodi:                       Yes. You can.

Lesley:                  Shut up. That is awesome.

Jodi:                       And that stuff is what gets made into your plastic lumber. So that's where that goes.

Lesley:                  Wow. I didn't know that. Learning. I learned something all the time, but that was that one got me. I had no idea. okay, so cardboard, like the cereal boxes and the cake mix boxes and that kind of stuff. What, what do we do with those?

Jodi:                       You want to take out anything else that might be in there? Any kind of plastic, any kind of the interior I could put in my yes,

Lesley:                  I've got a plan going on now sister.

Jodi:                       Yeah, you just want to make sure there's nothing else in there. If it's a big box like that, had furniture in it or whatever. Sometimes they staple or glue styrofoam inside there. You want to make sure all that's out. Um, you want it to be flattened and folded up so that it can fit. If you have curbside, make sure it's not going to spring open and be wedged in your container. Cause that's a problem. She tried to dump it. Um, you can cut it up into smaller pieces or you can take it to the County drop off sites and we can take it for you there.

Lesley:                  So just put it in like that. Okay. Um, so you're talking shipping boxes. I mean basically all cardboard. Everything is cool.

Jodi:                       Yeah. That's corrugated cardboard or the flatter it's called paperboard. Like a cereal box. Yeah. Okay.

Lesley:                  Um, glass bottles. Yeah. amber or clear. Not that we have beer bottles at my house, but what would you do if you did?

Jodi:                       Um, yeah, you, that all the glass is recyclable here in Allen County. Any color of glass. So even if you have like sometimes you'll get a blue one. Um, it's all recyclable here. You just again want it to not have any residue inside and um, it'd be relatively dry. Okay. What about the lid for that lid for that should come off cause it's usually a different type of material or cycle. Um, it's usually probably too small. Okay. So they say anything smaller than the size of a credit card is, is really too small to get sorted in the equipment.

Lesley:                  Okay. Okay. Um, so let's go into the bathroom cause it's like there's a lot in the bathroom. Uh, what about toothpaste tubes?

Jodi:                       Not currently. I know there are some coming out that say they are, are going to be recyclable. I forget what brands said there. They worked with the packaging companies to come up with luck. So that seems like it's on the horizon. Okay. Originally some of the natural toothpastes are packaged in like aluminum that like the old fashioned like Oh, cool. Mushy.

Lesley:                  I think that all so cool. Anyway, that kind of hearkening back to, of course I have an antique candle company, so imagine that. I like the antique, like that's cool. That's awesome. Um, and that's, I know that's something that the swaps, there's a lot of, they're trying to come out with different swaps or the toothpaste.

Jodi:                       So people are using toothpaste capsules that come in a glass bottle and things like that. Make your own toothpaste with baking soda. Um, yeah. Toothpaste tubes. And again, it's something you can think about from upstream perspective. Is your tube coming inside another box and is that really necessary? Are there two different brands that you live with that one of them is extra packaged and one's not. Right. That's a way to try to reduce packaging that way. Sure. But otherwise not recycled tips. All right.

Lesley:                  Okay. How about deodorant containers?

Jodi:                       No. Um, there may be some exceptions out there. Um, but typically the little twisty thing is one type of plastic and the lid is a different type. Um, and you know, even we talked about the plastic bottles, the lid is a different type. They have figured that out somehow as far as recycling. But um, due to our containers are a little too complicated for the most part. And it's got deodorant in it, right? Like you can back out that way. Yeah.

Lesley:                  Um, that's another swap. Right? I think they're trying to find some different packaging, compostable packaging or whatever for the deodorant bars, all different ones. The ones that come in, they almost look like a lotion bar where they come in the, that's another swap that you could be looking for.

Jodi:                       There are all different natural deodorants out there with all different types of packaging that some are, some are better than others. Okay.

Lesley:                  Um, and we will like, and I've got some products that I'm going to be reviewing so we can help people kind of just check it out. What about this one? I can tell you the pros and cons of what I found with some of the different stuff. So wait for that. Um, so shampoo containers. This is the last, this is the last bathroom one I have, what about the shampoo containers?

Jodi:                       Yeah, those are usually usually really good. They're just like a um, water bottle basically. Um, you want to make sure that most of the product is out and put the lid back on.

Lesley:                  Awesome. I was doing it totally wrong. I was coughing. It was taking me way more time than I needed to, which is awesome. So, and of course trying to be neat and tidy in doing this. The thought of just throwing stuff into the recycle container gives me hives a little bit, but what do you bag it or do you not bag it?

Jodi:                       Never bag. That is actually the number one contaminant for recycling. It's the number one slowdown. And through a cycle facility, it's actually super dangerous for people who have to work with recycling because they use, um, conveyor belts for sorting everything at that facility. They have to touch it. If it's in a bag or they have, they ha they try to get all the bags out, but if they don't, they get caught up in the machinery and they get wound up. So the whole plant has to shut down. Somebody has to go into these giant Grindr teeth of this machinery and actually cut out bags. Oh my. So it goes for bags. It goes for anything else we call them Tanglers any kind of string or chain or anything. Um, like the strapping, the plastic strapping. Sometimes you get around like heavy boxes, um, anything like that. Those are called tangles and they are a big problem because of the way that we have our recycling system set up, which, you know, hopefully technology catches up and we will be able to just Chuck anything in there and you know, it'll get sorted out. But right now we're kind of have to work with what we've got.

Lesley:                  Well, tanglers was a good word because I think of something that would be a long, skinny, something that would tangle up into gears in a piece of machinery certainly. Okay. So no bags, no, never bags, never. So that's totally opposite with my other trash, which again gives me, it gives me heaves. um, numbers. We talked about it a little bit earlier. I have looked at them. I know that they exist on my packaging, but I have no clue what they mean. So talk to us a little bit about the numbers that might be on the packaging.

Jodi:                       Yeah. And again, recycling is not always the most efficient system. What we've been able to deal with in the past is to just send it overseas and let someone else deal with it. So, um, those numbers were originally intended for, um, chemist, whoever was creating the plastic, whatever chemicals, um, went into it is what that indicated. Um, and now they just automatically print them on there with the recycle symbol around the outside and that's, it wasn't greenwashing super misleading. It, it could be, I would consider it a form of greenwashing. Yes. Or, um, wish cycling. Gotcha. Yeah. So, um, in some locations, maybe in California, they can take all those numbers, um, in some locations in the past. Um, what municipalities did was just say if it has a number on it, we'll take it for ease of the recycler. Right. but at this point in time we have to get a little smarter about it cause um, there has to be an end market so that material has to be able to be turned into something else. Someone actually buys that. Right. Um, and right now there's really only a market for numbers one, two, and five. Okay. You're not going to see three really? I think three is like, um, PVC pipe and stuff like that. Okay. Um, seven is usually styrofoam and that's not recyclable.

Lesley:                  What have you seen in our area have on a styrofoam?

Jodi:                       Um, did you see that? They did. I kind of think I did. I'd throw it away. Okay. Here's another phrase for you. When in doubt throw it out. Okay. Oh well that works. Yeah, that works. Okay.

Lesley:                  Yeah, I kind of think I did. You might have, cause I saw things on other things that I saw by on other things. I see a lot of five. I see. It seems like I see five a lot on some of the different things. I have a good one. Yeah. Um, I, it seemed like I was on styrofoam. If I find it or find it again, I'll let you know.

Jodi:                       Five is good for food because it's very nontoxic. Um, you'll see number four on your flexible bags and those are the ones.

Lesley:                  that go back to the store with all of our other film things and if that's awesome. I'm so glad I know that now. Um, so what absolutely cannot be recycled and what are some of the best practice practices for what we can do with those items?

Jodi:                       The thing I see most often that people really want to recycle and they wish it were recyclable and they throw it in the bin because they're hoping for the best. You want to feel good about themselves, but it is actually a contaminant. Um, are all those other plastics. So the plastics, that don't have a number on them. Um, it could be a lid off of a spray paint can. It could be your containers that your cosmetics come in. Um, it could be toys. We see that a lot. plastic toys and just any weird little plastic part off of, uh, you know, an appliance or, you know, everything we live with is made out of plastic. So most of that is not recyclable and just cause it's, uh, it's plastic, um, doesn't mean that we can do anything with it on the other end, unfortunately. So very, it's, it's a garden hose for example. We see those that's a Tangler and that's a weird plastic. So, um, all those other things, um, that are so ubiquitous in our life, we want to recycle them, but um, they're really not. So you want to stick to containers.

Lesley:                  and they can cause more problems. Yes, they can cause a lot more problems than they, I mean, there's no way you're going to recycle them and they're going to cause problems in the long run anyway. So.

Jodi:                       they are, there are some technologies coming up where I think there's going to be some cool stuff that we can do with that. Yeah, we can talk about it and yeah, we can talk about that. And then look for companies that are doing, um, that are do, doing cool plastic recycling. So like I've seen recently, Legos is one toy that you can mail back and they'll recycle.

Lesley:                  Wow, that's awesome.

Jodi:                       And I've seen programs for like markers where you can mail those back and they can recycle them, but those things would not go into your regular home or say go back to the company and the company recycles them into, which makes sense. I mean, they can recycle them potentially into a product they can offer. Absolutely. So. Okay. Awesome.

Lesley:                  Well, so the last thing we want to talk about is the back that the last thing we do is recycle, right? We talked about it a little bit before, but um, recycle is not the first thing you want to think about. It's the very last thing you want to think about it is so preach it. Jody, tell us about [inaudible].

Jodi:                       I hear it all the time when I'm out and about. I hear people, they want to come up to me and they say, Oh, we recycle everything and I'm just cringing. I'm like, thank you. I love your intentions so much. Um, but if you're recycling everything, I feel like there's so much stuff in your bin that's probably not supposed to be in there. Um, and maybe you're maybe, um, some people think, Oh, I can recycle this. It's no big deal. The, the resources used to recycle things are still resources we don't necessarily need to use. So, um, if it's something you can avoid purchasing or using in the first place, or do one of those swaps for something that's reusable infinitely or for a long time, then that is ideal.

Lesley:                  Perfect. All right. Very good. so next episode we're gonna talk a little bit more about what we do before we recycle. So some of those other, the reuse, the repurpose, the, those types of things. So that will be next episode. Thank you so much for all of your wisdom. We really appreciate you. Um, again, remember we will have a graphic on the Instagram, on our, uh, a material girl goes green Instagram account. That kind of breaks down some of the things we talked about because I know we stick a lot of information in a very small window of time. Um, so check that out. And again, if you have anybody in your life that is just starting down this journey, tell them about us. We would love to have them along, they can learn as I learn along the way. So again, thank you for listening. See you next time. Thanks.