In recent years there has been coverage and discussion on the dangers of plastics and in particular bisphenol A or BPA and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Recent studies have showed that very low doses of some of these common plastics ingredients may cause genetic abnormalities, birth defects and brain damage.
These plastics have also exhibited the ability to leach certain chemicals into foods that they come into contact with, especially when exposed to high temperatures.
So how do we find out what kinds of plastics are in the materials we touch or use each day? If you take a look at the bottom of plastic bottles, containers or shopping bags you’ll find numbers that can give you an idea of what you’re dealing with. First you have to know what the numbers mean. Here’s a brief primer.
#1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate): used for most clear beverage bottles.
#2 HDPE (high density polyethylene): used for “cloudy” milk and water jugs, opaque food bottles.
#3 PVC or V (polyvinyl chloride): used in some cling wraps, inflatable toys, mattress covers, shower curtains.
#4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): used in food storage bags and some “soft” bottles.
#5 PP (polypropylene): used in rigid containers, including some baby bottles and some cups and bowls.
#6 PS (polystyrene): used in foam containers with those “claim-shell” tops, meat and turkey trays, and in its rigid form, clear take-out containers, some plastic cutlery and cups. Polystyrene may leach styrene into food it comes into contact with. Styrene is also considered a possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research and Cancer.
#7 Other (usually polycarbonate): used in 5-gallon water bottles, some baby bottles, some metal can linings. Polycarbonate can release its primary building block, bisphenol A—a suspected hormone disrupter—into liquids and foods.
Not all plastic products are labeled with a number. If you’re unsure don’t hesitate to call the manufacturer directly. Also look on food product packaging for toll-free telephone numbers where consumers can ask questions.
Points to keep in mind:
1. Foods such as cheese and meat are perfect receptors for potentially harmful chemicals that can leach from plastics.
2. Heating food in plastics can increase leaching.
3. For your safety or peace of mind, it is likely best to reduce the use of ALL plastics in food packaging and other products. It’s also much better for the environment.
When in doubt, just do without!
I must be living under a rock because I didn’t realize until very, very recently that Tetra Pak products can be recycled. I remember hearing ages ago how recycling wasn’t viable for them because there were multiple layers of paper and plastic. Then just recently they sent me an email which mentioned sustainability and I decided to see if they could be recycled now. I was pleased to find out that many facilities ARE offering this service now. My city, a suburb of Columbus Ohio, is one of them.
This makes me happy because it opens up more options. I dislike buying products that come in plastic bottles or aluminum cans. Tetra Pak provides another option. Some of the things that I like that come in this kind of packaging are coconut water, broth, stock, coconut milk, almond milk, regular milk, gravy, and juice. I don’t always have time these days to make my own chicken broth or my own coconut milk. I like that I can run to the store in a pinch and buy some organic broth and coconut milk AND have it come in a safer container.
The nature of the packaging also makes them a bit more planet friendly (recycling aside). Less packing is used for products put in a Teta Pak and they weigh less which means fewer resources are used to transport them. They are not refrigerated, which means fewer wasted resources and the machines used to fill them even require less energy. After they are dropped off for recycling they can be recycled into tissue products, closing the loop. I am happy I looked into them and found out that much has changed!
Have you noticed how completely ugly most recycling bins are? I am sure you have. If you use the bins provided by your city or local waste collection service then you probably have the standard plastic tubs in red, green, or blue. They are fine for putting out at the curb once a week but it gets annoying to have to look at them in your kitchen every day. Not only do they waste a lot of space, they look unsightly. So what to do? I know! Hide those dastardly bins in the garage or set them out back. That does work, except when you find that kids, husbands, or perhaps even you skip the trip and throw recyclables away. This won’t do.
We need something easy, accessible, and pleasing to the eye. Lucky for us there are quite a few options out there nowadays that meet this criteria. They match our snazzy ‘green’ decor better and they make it easier to recycle as much as we possibly can. Admittedly some are on the small side but big things can still be put out in the garage bins right? It’s not as if someone is going to take the time to rip up large cardboard boxes to fit inside the garbage if they can just walk it to a nearby bin right? Yeah, I think these are workable. I would be jazzed to have any of these recycling systems in my home. How about you?
Stainless 2 Compartment Recycling Bin – 16 gallons with two compartments in case you want to keep items separated (ala glass and plastic). The finish is lovely and will match your other appliances if you have a stainless thing going on in the kitchen. It is also on wheels so you can easily move it around.
Hands Free Triple Bin Recycling Can – This is another stainless option and I love that it is hands free, whilst still having a lid. It has three bins all with a 3 gallon capacity. They are removable so you can just pull them out and dump into your roadside bins. Sounds like a job for the kids, no?
Brushed Stainless Recycling Bin – This option is finger-print proof and thus more expensive but some people have really fancy kitchens and it might be important for them to maintain the look. This bin and foot pedal are made to last for many, many years so it won’t need to be replaced any time soon and the lid has a filter for odor absorption just in case someone doesn’t rinse out the milk jug before recycling it.
Polyester Stand Up Recycling Bags – Okay I do NOT have one of those aforementioned fancy kitchens. I think these would be a-okay for display. You may or may not agree but these waterproof upright bags would be super easy to use and care for. They fit a lot of stuff and they are different colors if you need to separate your recyclables.
Recycling Bin with Changeable Labels – This bin is another that may not be stylish enough for some high end kitchens but I love that it is upright and has a label system. It has labels for compost, landfill, glass, plastic, paper, and others. I love that you can compost in one section and collect glass bottles in another.
Pull Out Recycling Bins – These bins are not so pleasing to the eye but they are made to be tucked away inside one of your kitchen cabinets using the provided tracks. They are pretty roomy and they will be out of the way. You can use both for recycling or one for regular landfill trash.
Did you find one that will work for you?
I am very much in favor of supplementation. This is because I belive that our food system is so broken and our soil conditions are so lacking that food cannot provide us with all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we need for health. To close the gap I take various supplements such as fish oils, magnesium, Vitamin D3, and Milk Thistle. I have some on hand that I am trying out and some that I only need occasionally, like Echinacea. This leaves me with a bit of waste problem. I have many brown glass bottles and some plastic bottles that had supplements in them that are now empty. I decided to compile a list of things you might do to reuse/recycle them.
Freecycle/Craigslist – You would be amazed how your trash might be just what someone else needs. Animal shelters might use them for pet medication, churches might want them for mission trip meds, and crafters might have use of them too. Make an offer…
Fishing Supplies – My oldest son is an avid fisherman and we use bottles for small things like hooks, lures, and weights. That way mom doesn’t end up getting a fish hook in her flip -flop when she walks in the garage.
Seed Containers – Paper seed envelopes can be a giant pain in the back side. You open them for your first planting and then you might end up loosing half them by the next year. Putting them in a bottle makes storing them much easier and you can tape the label from the envelope on the underside of the jar or the top of the cap.
Coin Holder – If you or your children collect coins then jars and bottles are perfect for storing them. No need for a piggy bank, multiple jars of money look way more awesome.
Organization – You can use them to organize desk items… paper clips, pencils, sewing needles, rubber bands, tacks, earbuds, beads for crafts, etc.
Mini Vases – If they are larger jars (think fish oils) line them up on a windowsill with small, pretty flowers to brighten up the room! You can even paint them or wrap yarn around them first to make them pretty. As an alternative you can hang brackets on the wall and hang the bottles on those.
Beauty Supplies – Use to decant olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil which can then be used for hands, face or in the bath because who wants a big jar of coconut oil or olive oil in their bathroom?? Also handy for carrying in your purse.
Let There Be Light – If the opening is large enough, you can put a tealight in them. Get your kids to decorate the outside with colored tissue paper.
Go Herbal – Dark bottles are great for storing bulk herbs for cooking and medicinal use.
Travel On – Instead of buying travel sized shampoo to meet TSA requirements put some of your regular shampoo or conditioner in one of these small bottles.
Do you have any more ideas to add? Share!
A big part of green living that gets overlooked in favor of recycling is the simple concept of reusing. Yet the slogan is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The first step in greener living is to reduce the amount of stuff we buy and consume in the first place. The second is to find clever ways to make those initial items last longer or find new uses for them.. aka reusing them. Then AFTER those first two steps we try to find a way to recycle the things we can’t use any longer. Here are ten things you can reuse or recycle on a small scale before you toss them out:
1. Junk mail – Instead of tossing the junk mail in the recycling bin see if you can use it first. Envelopes can be used as paper for grocery lists and to-do lists. They can also be cut up and used for notes (in lieu of post-its) or for children’s craft projects. My oldest son loves to collect junk mail to make homemade recycled paper. We also use empty envelopes as bookmarks.
2. Cardboard egg cartons – These can be saved to plant seedlings in during the spring or to grow herbs in your kitchen any time of year. You can also buy wooden play eggs for your kids and use a real carton to store them in. Plastic, wool, or wood Easter eggs can be stored in egg cartons to keep them neat and organized. They can also be used as fire starters for camping… just fill the holes in with dry brush or dryer lint and use to get your campfire going.
3. Foam packing peanuts and bubble wrap – Whenever you get these in the mail add them to your Christmas/holiday storage boxes to protect breakables. Bubble wrap can also be used to insulate windows in the winter.
4. Newspaper – Save for messy craft projects, painting, lining kitty litter boxes and trash cans, or even donating to local pet stores or animal shelters who use them for bedding.
5. Plastic milk jugs – These can be cut and used for scooping pet food quite well. We used to use them for scooping grain for horses each night. They are also excellent for draining fish tanks and then using the water to feed plants (who LOVE fishy water). Cut the top off and use to collect kitchen scraps that you will eventually take out to the compost pile. Use them as cloches to protect seedlings in the spring.
6. Worn sheets/Towels – Cut them up and use for cleaning rags and for craft projects. A sheet and towel combo is perfect for making a homemade dish drying mat like this one I made this year from a project I saw in Handmade Home.
7. Used gift wrapping paper – Instead of tossing the paper see what you can salvage for scrapbooking and crafting. You may even have some pieces large enough to reuse for smaller gifts. You can also glue pieces to card stock and make your own greeting cards and thank you cards. Using the paper that was used to wrap your gift in the card you send to say thank you, is a nice touch.
8. Reuse glass jars – Your spaghetti sauce or jam jar has more than one use from Vodoo jars at Halloween to a hanging lantern for summer nights. See 10 Ways to Reuse a Glass Jar and 10 MORE Ways to Reuse Glass Jars.
9. Beer bottle caps – If your laundry is anything like mine, then you find a steady supply of these in the husband’s jeans. Glue and magnets from the craft store will turn these into magnets for your refrigerator. For plastic bottle caps check out Bottle Cap Activities : Recycled Crafts for All Ages.
10. Plastic bottles – If you buy plastic shampoo or lotion bottles these can be kept to hold homemade cleaner such as vinegar and water. Most have tops that allow for accurate squirting so why buy new spray bottles when you can reuse your shampoo bottles?
What creative ways have you found to reuse what might otherwise get tossed in the garbage?