According to experts, most of us will generate 25 percent more waste during the holidays compared with the rest of the year – resulting in an extra 5 million tons of garbage. To encourage consumers to “trim their trash” while trimming their trees, Plastics Make it PossibleSM, an initiative sponsored by the plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council, offers this holiday “how to” guide for reusing and recycling everyday plastics.
According to a recent national survey conducted by Plastics Make it PossibleSM, 67 percent of Americans recycle to do their part to help the environment. During the holidays it’s especially important that we keep it up.
“From beverage bottles and food containers to shopping bags and dry cleaning wrap, so much of the waste we generate during the holidays is recyclable,” said Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division. “These valuable plastic materials can be easily recycled in many communities and given a second life as carpeting, clothing, furniture, durable backyard decks and home building products, new bottles and bags, and other products we use every day.”
By turning the following reuse and recycling tips into household habits, you can help reduce waste, keep valuable plastics out of landfills, and protect our planet during the holidays and year-round.
Find out which plastics are accepted for recycling in your community. Today, more than 80 percent of U.S. households have access to a recycling program, and the vast majority of them collect plastic bottles. A bottle is any container with a neck or opening that’s smaller than its base. Include the following wherever plastic bottles are recycled:
- Milk jugs
- Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
- Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners
- Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
- Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise
Be sure to rinse bottles that previously contained food
(Empty beverage bottles can go straight into the bin.) Unless your community specifically asks for them, bottle caps should be placed in the garbage, not the recycle bin. Similarly, bags should be clean and empty. Do not include plastic food wrap or bags that have food residue.
Reuse, reuse, reuse!
From wrapping to ribbons, boxes to packing peanuts, gather and save gift wrap and packing materials for next year! And don’t forget bags –there are many helpful ways to reuse plastic bags, including:
- Wet umbrella cover – keep other items in your bag dry when your umbrella is wet
- Suitcase savers – wrap shoes before packing them with clean clothes
- Hand protectors – place them over your hands to handle messes indoors and out
- Kitchen clean-up – place them under the cutting board for quick scrap removal
- Trash can liners – use them in bathrooms and other household waste baskets
- Doggie duty – bring them on dog walks to collect and dispose of pet waste
Bring bags back
Most large grocery stores and some retailers (e.g., Wal-Mart) offer plastic bag drop-off programs that allow consumers to return their used bags and product wraps to be recycled. These bins are usually located at the front entrance or near checkout areas. Almost all kinds of clean plastic bags are accepted for recycling in these programs, including:
- Grocery bags
- Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
- Plastic newspaper bags
- Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
- Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
- You can also include plastic wraps from products such as paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, diapers and cases of soda wherever plastic bags are collected for recycling.
Pitch in beyond the kitchen
While many recyclable bottles come from the kitchen, don’t forget to check the bathrooms and laundry room for shampoo and detergent bottles.
On the road this holiday season and can’t find a recycle bin? Don’t throw your empty bottles in the trash – temporarily store them in a purse or briefcase, or simply leave them in the car until arriving home to place in a recycle bin. And don’t forget to temporarily put the cap back on your bottle to prevent leakage until you can properly recycle it.
Don’t throw out the leftovers
Saving your lidded plastic food containers and plastic to-go containers from take-out could provide a free and easy way for holiday party guests to carry home leftovers. Plus, they can keep these items and reuse them again.
Check for containers
In addition to bottles, roughly one-third of communities are collecting and recycling plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, tubs, trays and lids. If you’re only recycling bottles, check to see if your community one of the many areas that has recently added food containers to its list of collectibles.
When in doubt, leave it out
Keep in mind that mixing the wrong types of materials (even other plastics) can lower the quality of the recycled material. So unless your community specifically asks for plastics other than bottles, please put only bottles into the recycling bin. Keep these items out of the recycle bin unless your community specifically accepts them:
- No plastic bags or wraps (take them to your grocery store, if accepted)
- No automotive, pesticide or solvent bottles
- No lids or spray pumps
- No toys
- No trays, tubs or containers (unless your community accepts them; more and more communities are recycling these types of containers in addition to bottles, so it’s worth checking.)
Adopt a second life mindset
Do you ever wonder your recyclables go? Keep in mind that today’s water bottle could be tomorrow’s little black dress or carpeting or backyard deck.