Plastic

Getting Back on Track

We got back from our European jaunt on Saturday and I am still recovering from jetlag and getting back on track with work and life.

That means I have not had time to blog, so for now, I leave you with two pictures of recycling we encountered on our travels.

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Paris, France had corner recycling centers

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Recycling in Austria at the train station has bins for metal, paper, plastic, and other waste.

If you are disappointed that all I am going to post of my trip are of recycling, do not fear. Keep scrolling!

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Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Munich, Germany

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Munich, Germany

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Munich, Germany

 

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Hallstatt, Austria

 

 

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Those Pesky Plastic Bags

I had a friend ask me what I do with plastic bags that I eventually accumulate.

Not just the standard grocery bags, but the plastic packaging, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, or other types of bags that are labeled as plastic #4 and don’t belong in the curbside recycling bin.

These bags should not be tossed in with your regular recycling because they basically mess up all the machinery and cause all sorting to come screeching to a halt as they have to pull bags free from the machines.

plastic bags

As any normal person does, I hoard them under the kitchen sink until I have a full bag. Then I drop them off at my local grocery store, like Mariano’s, Target, Jewel, Walmart, and more. Check here to see what stores have drop-off locations near you.

In reality, we shouldn’t be using these plastic bags in the first place, but sometimes we get them. They get handed to us before we get a chance to even say something, or a friend sends you home with your leftovers wrapped up in a bag.

It happens. It’s okay.

But it is important to note that using plastic bags because you can bring them to the grocery store to be recycled is NOT THE ANSWER.

Instead, bring your own reusable bags to the store. You’ll also save $0.07 on the bag tax (if you live in Chicago, IL).

 

Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

31st street beach

For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

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A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

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Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

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Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom

 

 

Sometimes You’re Gonna Be Wasteful

Not that I need to share this with the internet world, but I had “minor surgery” this week.

I diligently go to the dermatologist annually to keep an eye on my fair skin and my numerous moles, but this year a mole on my back decided to grow, and my doctor thought it was best to remove it.

So “minor surgery” it was. And minor surgery means major waste.

Between the individually packaged sterilized tools and the gauze, and who knows what else (I was keeping my eyes closed. I DID NOT want to see what they were doing), there was already a bunch of waste just the day of the procedure.

For the next two weeks, I have to clean and change my bandage twice a day. That’s a lot of band-aids.

I know this is wasteful and legitimately all of it will end up in a landfill. We all have to make concessions sometimes, especially when it comes to our health.

Trying to make this situation less wasteful is not something I am up to doing. I am not making my own cotton band-aids and I am not risking infection, so landfill-destined bandages it is.

No pictures for today’s post. No one wants to see my stitches!

How I Pack My Lunch

Back to the days of packing my lunch for work!

I pretty much never buy lunch and I never did even in my school days when we could purchase “hot lunch.”

 

 

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Locally produced turkey sandwich

 

Not only does this practice save me money, but it also saves on food packaging and waste. Ziploc bags are never on my shopping list because I use SnackTaxis to hold all my snacks and lunch essentials.

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I have had them for a number of years and I love them. They are machine washable and I just let them air dry over night. They even stand up to a PB&J with a bit too much jelly. Just wipe it off and toss in the washer!

Their fun designs also can make a boring lunch a little bit more exciting! And my lunches are pretty boring (see the turkey sandwich with just bread and turkey above).

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My handy lunch bag has also been hanging around since my college days and it too is machine washable. So when I leave something in there just a little too long and it starts to get a bit funky, that can easily be fixed.

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For foods that cannot go in a SnackTaxi, I just use Pyrex glass containers for everything from yogurt to soup. Yeah, glass is heavy, but whatever, bring on the muscles!

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Our regular silverware from home comes with me to work when necessary and then I just bring it home every day to pop in the dishwasher. I don’t find it to be any extra work.

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On top of all the other necessary pieces, I keep a napkin in my drawer at my desk! It definitely comes in handy when I am eating a juicy peach or there is a snack to grab in the break room.

How do you keep your work day lunches package-free?

Best Buy: They Will Take Your Old Printer

I found a secret weapon for taking your unused, broken, and obsolete electronics off your hands and out of your closets.

 

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Source: Greenpeace

 

Recycling electronics can be hard, I get it. Municipalities and local government usually hold electronic recycling or e-waste collection drives, but they are never convenient and always random.

They might take place once a season or once a month if you are lucky.

My parents have been hoarding old electronics for years and I had been holding on to them to recycle with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, but then the program was suspended and we weren’t sure what to do with them anymore.

Let me just hold on to the 6 different cords that came with my digital camera in 2006 just a little bit longer.

Another 4 months won’t hurt. Anything to make sure it does not end up in a landfill and that all hazardous materials are disposed of properly.

You know what is convenient? Getting rid of your old printer from college (that no longer prints) when you actually want to get rid of it.

And that is what you can do when you just take your electronics to Best Buy for recycling. They will take anything (almost), no matter where you bought it or how old it is.

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You can even get discounts on new products for recycling your old products. I broke my broken Fitbit there when I purchased a new one.

Don’t worry about having to call your nearby Best Buy to see if they will take your e-junk. All U.S. stores offer the in-store programs, and they really want your stuff because…

Best Buy’s goal is to recycle 2 billion pounds of electronics by the end of 2020.

So far, Best Buy has collected and responsibly disposed of more than 1 billion pounds of electronics and appliances, making them the largest retail collection program in the U.S.

So go through your closet. Round up some of the stuff listed below and bring it to Best Buy to be taken care of properly.

  • rechargeable batteries
  • wires, cords, & cables
  • DVD players
  • headphones
  • remotes
  • VCRs
  • laptops
  • keyboards
  • web cams
  • tablets & e-readers
  • calculators
  • phone chargers
  • cell phones
  • shredders
  • vacuums
  • printer ink & toner
  • alarm clocks
  • CD players
  • iPods
  • speaker systems
  • curling irons
  • fans
  • hair dryers
  • hair straighteners
  • pedometers & heart monitors
  • video game consoles
  • binoculars
  • memory cards
  • digital cameras
  • camcorders
  • digital photo frames
  • GPS systems

Get going! You know you have at least 5 of these things lying around! 

Recycling My Running Shoes

Does anyone else hoard their running shoes? I keep them around forever and use them as my already-gross-don’t-care-if-they-get-any-grosser shoes.

After writing in a previous post about what to do with materials that are no longer usable to someone else, I learned about Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program that turns your completely destroyed shoes into Nike Grind materials for floor surfaces and new products.

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Last week I popped over to our local Nike running store and dropped off one of my oldest pairs of running shoes. They have no cushion left and the heels are all torn up inside.  No one is going to want those, but Nike does, and they will give your Sole Mates a second life.

The Plastic Wrapped Apples

So I went to Denver a couple weeks ago.

On the way to our gate, we stopped at the Home Run Inn to get something to eat before our flight.

As I stood in line waiting to order, I noticed an odd sight.

plastic apples

A basket full of individually wrapped apples……

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I thought that was #1 very strange and #2 very wasteful and unnecessary, so I did what any millennial would do:

Complain on Twitter.

I tweeted at both Home Run Inn and Midway airport about the oddness of the plastic wrapped apples.

 

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Before we had even taken off, Home Run Inn had responded. I hope something does come of this. It would probably be best to follow up.

Although I was not rewarded with any free pizza, I was pretty impressed with their quick response and demeanor.

Next time you are at Midway, hop into the Home Run Inn and see if the apples are free from their plastic wrap for me!

A Recycling Change Up

The other day, we found a weird site outside our building. K called me as he left for work to tell me to look outside. He told me there were 3 recycling carts on the sidewalk with our address on them.

It turned out not to be 3 recycling bins, instead, it was only one recycling bin, and 2 garbage cans that also happened to be blue. WHY DO THEY DO THAT?! Do they really need to make recycling anymore confusing??

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The cart on the left is the recycling cart. The contents of the other two will be headed to the landfill.

After that happened, our black City of Chicago garbage carts were left out on the sidewalk to be picked up and hauled away, and now our City blue cart is gone now too.

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Overall, I am pretty confused right now. Since our building has 4 units or less, we fall into the City recycling program. Why are we suddenly using a private service?

I am going to have to do a little digging because of course we were not informed of anything by our landlord. I will keep you posted!

Back to the Beach Clean Ups

I willingly spent a Saturday morning picking up garbage.

It has gotten to the point where I will stop my run to pick up a plastic water bottle.

Other people don’t enjoy that as much as I do? Hmm.. weird!

Anyway, we are back to the beach clean up season.

Last Saturday, in honor of World Environment Day, I cleaned up Montrose Beach with members of Delta Institute (I serve on their associate board), Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Goose Island brewery.

 

 

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Montrose Beach, Chicago, IL

 

Although it looked pretty clean from far away, in about an hour and a half, our group of three collected:

  • 98 cigarette butts
  • 40 food wrappers
  • 49 foam pieces
  • 110 pieces of glass
  • 108 small pieces of plastic
  • 19 popsicle sticks

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In total, our whole group picked up over 290 pounds of trash!!!

 

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The whole crew

 

 

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Some members of Delta Institute’s associate board, the Delta Emerging Leaders

 

 

Then yesterday, I met up with Alliance for the Great Lakes again and Barefoot Wine to clean up North Avenue Beach to make it barefoot friendly.

 

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North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL

 

It was a beautiful evening so there were still plenty of people hanging out by the water. As opposed to Montrose Beach, there was definitely garbage that you could easily see.

 

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Ew.

 

I wouldn’t want to play around in that.

This time our group of three picked up:

  • 205 cigarette butts
  • 43 food wrappers
  • 15 popsicle sticks
  • 44 pieces of glass
  • A nearly full box of cookies
  • 14 total pounds

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A lot of the stuff we picked up is small and doesn’t weigh a lot, but once you put all of it together it sure does seem significant.