Updated: Feb 17
It happens all the time! I’m trying to be all low-waste and then suddenly there it is – plastic film. Birthday presents come shrink-wrapped in it. Produce comes enshrined in it. Lovely neighborly baked goods come packed in it. Toilet paper is encased in it. Somehow, even though I haven’t bought a sandwich bag in my entire life, they show up in my house periodically. Yes, I try to avoid all these sources, but I can’t always. And Covid has not helped. For some reason people think wrapping everything in plastic is going to keep us from getting sick. Anyway, one way or another, plastics make it into my house. But, luckily, I am prepared for that.
First, I try to avoid plastic at all cost. Obviously no plastic bags from the grocery store (or any store for that matter) and no plastic produce bags (if I can help it… for awhile you couldn’t use the reusable ones). But, less obviously, we try to avoid all packaged snacks and foods. Anything that comes with packaging requires disposal. If you follow the old adage “shop naked”, you’ll come home feeling lighter. 🙂
Second, I reuse plastic bags. I reuse the ziplock bags from our frozen fruits and vegetables as freezer bags and repurpose bagel bags as vehicles for neighborly gifts (no, I don’t make my own bagels… yet). When I did buy freezer bags for things like berries, I would wash and reuse them until they gave up the ghost. Now, I use these.
Next, I recycle what I can through Terracycle. This is a super cool program that lets you mail in hard-to-recycle plastics and other materials and recycles them for you. A lot of eco-friendly companies pay into the program to allow their packaging to be recycled. There are a few products – chips, for example – that we still buy in plastic, but I always choose ones we can Terracycle.
Terracycle will email you a postage label to print and attach to your package, filled with the wrappers from eligible products. The shipping is carbon neutral and free to you. It takes a bit more work, but keeps plastic out of the trash. They also help you recycle a bunch of other hard-to-recycle products.
More and more packaging comes with helpful labeling. This little bag, which came with a radio we bought, and this big carrot bag and both recyclable.
But what about all the random plastics I mentioned at the beginning? What about the plastic around our toilet paper rolls and the plastic envelopes packages come in and the plastic wrapping around products we need? What about the used plastic sandwich bags that creep into my house when I’m not looking?
The answer is Store Drop Off Plastic Film Recycling and it’s super easy. I hang a plastic grocery bag (you know the ones we had to use for two weeks during Covid before we started doing this) on the back of my pantry door and fill it up with all those random plastics until it’s full. Then I tie it and drop it off in the conveniently located bin at the front of the grocery store. Below you can see all the recyclables allowed in those bins (they are at all major grocery stores):
Plastic happens. The best thing we can do is to help it happen less often and, when it does, to dispose of it properly. I hope this helps!