Kick it to The Curb

Recycling. It’s eco-living 101, right? For most of us, it’s second-nature by now, and if your area offers commingled curb-side recycling, it’s even easier than ever, isn’t it?

But lately, I’ve found myself hesitating every time I’m about to drop something into the recycling bin, because my area’s recycling center’s list of unacceptable products keeps getting longer and longer. I can still recycle aluminum cans, but not glass. Corrugated cardboard is ok, but not pizza boxes. And the real toughie? Milk jugs are a yes, but margarine containers are a big, fat no.

I’m new here, so you don’t know this about me, but in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to you all my huge dependence on margarine. Well, not margarine, per se, but the plastic tub in which it’s often sold. And not just margarine tubs, but all wide-mouthed plastic food storage containers co-existing in the same family: cream cheese tubs, yogurt tubs, and perhaps most dear to my heart, Cool Whip tubs (now I know you’re judging me, and I can hardly blame you).

But this story has a happy (eco) ending. Upon learning that my Country Crock’s HDPE (#2) plastic cannot be recycled curbside, I thought had two options: go to the trouble (and use up the gasoline) of finding a local center that accepts my tubs, or toss them in the garbage. Neither option appealed to me in the least.

Then a radical thought occurred to me: what if there was a third option? What if…wait for it…I simply opted not to buy the tubs in the first place? What if I used the power of the consumer dollar to buy my margarine in a paper-wrapped ½ cup block instead? What a novel idea! (Cue sarcasm and self-mockery.) As you can imagine, my mind spun.

And I’m pleased to say I haven’t looked back. (The only must-have item in my house which I cannot find in tub-free form is cottage cheese. I’m still looking.)

And that is how Rogue Disposal and Recycling finally broke me of my horrible plastic tub habit…by enforced restriction, guilt, and a side of inconvenience. (You know, the way most change comes about in this world.)

What about you? Have your recycling habits effected your buying habits? Or am I the last consumer on Earth to make this connection?

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Amy Whitley is excited to join the 5 Minutes for Going Green team! You can read more about her attempts at eco-living at her blog The Never-True Tales, where this week, she’ll be writing about climate change in honor of Blog Action Day 2009.

10 Responses to Kick it to The Curb
  1. Laura C
    October 13, 2009 | 12:01 pm

    Welcome, Amy!

    I’m very glad you’re way ahead of me on recycling knowledge, because only now do I ask myself if maybe MY county’s recycling center has a restriction list of some kind… o_0

    The only such restriction I’ve ever heard of in my part of Madrid is that crystal is a no-no in the glass bin. But differences among plastic products? Never heard of the concept, but now, of course, I MUST find out (thankyouverymuch ;))

    As for shopping habits, I can’t say they’ve changed much, except for the bags I bring the food home in nowadays? Reusable or biodegradable. No more ol’ fashioned plastic bags. (They’re out of style, you know? *g*)

    Great topic!

  2. Mary @ Parenthood
    October 13, 2009 | 12:34 pm

    Heh – our recycling guidelines keep changing and it’s always hard to keep on top of what goes in and what doesn’t! A couple of years ago our city (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) accepted everything plastic, glass and metal. And then someone discovered that a good portion of our plastics were being shipped to China and being landfilled there. So naturally, the program stopped accepting those types of plastics since it makes more sense to landfill garbage locally from an environmental perspective. Right??

    You wouldn’t believe the outrage directed at city councillors. People were complaining that since the plastic wasn’t recycled “anymore” (ie they couldn’t put it in their bins), their kids were getting confused and “what kind of message was that to send to the children?” Never mind that the plastic was never getting recycled in the first place!

    So over the next couple of years they tried to locate places to recycle all this stuff and eventually reached a compromise whereby some of it is recycled and some isn’t and who knows whether it is actually being recycled or not.

    I think too many people think of recycling as a guilt free way of disposing of waste. So kudos to you for trying to eliminate your use of non-recyclable containers!

  3. Brianne
    October 13, 2009 | 1:47 pm

    My township has the best recycling system! I will be blogging about it shortly and hope to bring awareness about this program so it gets adopted throughout the country.

  4. Carole
    October 14, 2009 | 12:37 am

    Our recycling program here is still pretty good. I just tell myself the numbers 1,2, 4,5… I’m surprised actually how little for us falls outside of that. I think a side result is eating better foods because if you eat less processed stuff you’re buying less plastic packaged stuff. However it annoys me that my son’s yoghurt containers can not be recycled.

  5. Rachel McFadden
    October 14, 2009 | 11:56 am

    I definitely look at what I will be doing with the container I buy things in! For example, I now buy milk in a returnable/reusable glass container rather than the plastic . I actually started taking the plastic tubs I buy to my mother-in-law’s house because they recycle it in the city (not the county, where I live!) My county says they are going to expand their recycling program in 2010 (we’ll see!)

  6. Mommy Bee
    October 14, 2009 | 1:29 pm

    Yes, I would say that my recycling habit has affected my purchasing…I currently live in an area that doesn’t have curbside recycling (SO sad!) so I tend to try to avoid anything in a container that I can’t reuse (ie, switching to shampoo bars instead of bottles of shampoo, or getting glass jars instead of plastic, because I reuse the glass for freezer jams/homemade broth/dry beans). If some kind of disposable container is the only option, I try to look for minimal packaging…like you said about paper-wrapped rather than a tub (except I won’t touch margarine with a 10 ft pole LOL!) But for example I get whipping cream and whip it in my own bowl rather than getting the reddi-whip bottle. :)

  7. Amber
    October 14, 2009 | 2:31 pm

    I am able to recycle plastic tubs where I live, but I still avoid buying them. However, when I do get them, I re-use them. Right now all my old yogurt containers are holding a season’s worth of frozen blueberries in my freezer. I’ve decided that it’s more environmentally-friendly than using disposable freezer bags, and it allows me to eat some yogurt guilt-free when I need a few extras. I might be justifying, but I really think I have a point. ;)

  8. Normal to Natalie
    October 14, 2009 | 9:37 pm

    Actually in my quest to get my body healthier and teach my children about it we discovered that when eating the foods that are REAL we are more likely to generate compost waste rather than trash or recycling. For example, egg shells, banana peels, apple cores vs crackers, cookies, etc. Anyway, I guess my answer is yes, my ability to recycle or compost the container effects my purchasing!

  9. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    October 15, 2009 | 7:35 pm

    LOVE IT!!!!

    Welcome to the team Ann! I love you already!!!

    I keep my Cool Whip containers – I know – I LOVE Cool Whip. Please don’t judge too harshly. And I use them for all sorts of things – most notably as receptacles for ahem… vomit. They are GREAT sick buckets for my kids to hold on to. Well – not for the first vomit – they aren’t big enough to contain the splashes, but later, when they need to hold onto something in case they throw up a bit more. Just brilliant.

    And now I apologize for associating Cool Whip and vomit. BUT now look at HOW many less containers of Cool Whip people will by now that I have destroyed their appetites for Cool Whip???

    Just doing my part… ;)

  10. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    October 15, 2009 | 7:35 pm

    AAACHCCHHCHH = I just typed ANN instead of AMY!!!!!!!!!!!! HORRORS!!!!!!