The challenges facing the recycling industry have been front page news over the last year. China no longer wants our plastics–in part because we haven’t done a great job of separating them from other trash. Perhaps the rest of the country could take a lesson from Wild Oats customers, who have stepped up and deftly mastered the three-stop process in our cafe!
Now, a report in the New York Times over the weekend has revealed that some localities around the country have quietly started burning or landfilling materials that the public had dutifully separated for recycling. The article prompted me to reach out to the company that hauls our solid waste to find out what has been happening with our recyclables.
The response was mostly positive. Cardboard and paper are still being recycled, as are glass and aluminum. For the time being at least, so are the two types of plastic most commonly used in food and beverage packaging (#1 and 2).
On the down side, there is currently “no market” for plastics labeled 3 through 7. Fortunately, we generate relatively little of them at the co-op. Williamstown has proactively banned plastic shopping bags (#4) and anything made from polystyrene (#6). One exception is the material commonly used in yogurt containers, polypropylene (#5). We’ll be looking into bringing back the “Gimme 5” program, which recycles these plastics into toothbrushes and other consumer products.
Of course, the organic and biodegradable items at the co-op also continue to be “recycled,” with everything designated for our composting bin at the front of the store going straight to the commercial composting facility up the road. During the past year we have eliminated most of the plastic items in our café (including straws, cutlery, take-out packaging) and replaced them with compostable alternatives.
I am always happy to hear your thoughts, and have set aside some time to meet with co-op owners on Sunday April 7 to discuss these or any other issues. Stop by between 10:00 and 11:00 or between 2:00 and 3:00 for a cup of coffee or tea and to let me know what’s on your mind.