Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” September 2008.
Plastics and Recycling
Plastic products are everywhere in today’s world. They may be convenient, but they have a large impact on the environment. All plastics come from petroleum, most contain potentially harmful chemical additives, and many are difficult to recycle. Plastic doesn’t decompose and litters the earth – a large section of the Pacific Ocean millions of square miles in size is now a giant sea of floating plastic trash.
Deciding what to do about plastics can be confusing. Here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions about plastics recycling:
WHAT PLASTIC ITEMS CAN I RECYCLE IN MY BLUE CART?
Napa residents, schools, and businesses can now recycle all rigid plastics, including bottles, jugs, buckets, tubs, bins and toys! There is no need to look at the number on the bottom – Check http://www.naparecycling.com for details on our single-stream recycling program. Styrofoam, plastic bags, and plastic film/wrap are not accepted. Businesses with a large amount of shrink wrap can call Napa Recycling to set up special recycling services. Also, please realize that many plastic items (pens, straws, lip balm containers, etc.) are so small that they can’t be picked out by our workers or fall through our recycling equipment… but the majority of the plastics placed in the blue cart will be successfully recycled.
STYROFOAM & PLASTIC BAGS… WHY CAN’T I RECYCLE THESE PLASTICS?
There are virtually no markets for used Styrofoam – it is too light to transport effectively and has limited uses. Styrofoam peanuts make a huge mess when dumped in recycling or trash carts – please use alternatives or drop off at shipping stores for reuse.
Plastic bags, film, and wrap also can litter the environment when placed in carts, and get tangled in the recycling equipment if they make it to our facility. Use reusable bags whenever possible, and recycle bags/film/wrap at supermarkets and large retailers if you end up with a stash.
We encourage you to avoid purchasing hard-to-recycle plastics and buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging. The “Buy Recycled” page on the website’s “Recycle Guide” lists ideas and links for environmentally friendly purchasing.
WHAT’S A SIMPLE WAY TO HELP FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING?
Recycling and composting are easy and efficient methods to save energy and reduce the production of greenhouse gases. In 2007, nearly 100,000 tons of materials were recycled or composted at the Napa Recycling & Composting Facility. By keeping these valuable resources out of the landfill, we decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 97,366 metric tons and used 562,393 million fewer BTUs of energy. To put it in perspective, this is enough energy to power all the houses in Napa for one month! Additionally, these savings are the equivalent of taking 21,075 passenger cars off the road and conserving almost 4½ million gallons of gasoline, helping to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
Plastic is made from oil, a finite resource that has contributed to global climate change. Even though recycling plastic bottles helps, consider the true environmental cost of manufacturing a plastic water bottle in the first place: it generates 100 times more toxic emissions than manufacturing a glass bottle. And unlike glass, paper products and metals, which are recycled over and over again, plastics are usually “downcycled” into non-recyclable materials such as plastic lumber. So what can you do? Here are some easy ways to help cool the earth: drink tap water, purchase products made of recycled materials, start a backyard compost pile, use canvas grocery bags and recycle & reuse at home & work.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE AND REUSE PLASTICS?
– Bring unbroken plant pots back to your nursery
– Recycle printer cartridges at local schools or stores
– Buy wine with natural corks instead of plastic corks
– Use reusable metal water bottles instead of buying bottled water
– Purchase items like yogurt in larger containers instead of single-serving size
– Reuse your plastic food containers for leftovers instead of buying new ones
– Encourage companies to take responsibility for their unsustainable packaging