The State of Recycling in Media

Tips From Media Recycles

“We don’t need a handful of people doing Zero Waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” –Anne-Marie Bonneau, “Zero Waste Chef”

It is easy to look at the state of recycling in our country and want to give up. We read about recycling facilities that no longer have markets for their bundles of separated materials and end up dumping them in the landfill. We consider the sad state of plastic recycling: only 9% of plastics can be recycled into other products.

How to Recycle in Media: For more information on Media Recycling—what, when and how to recycle—click here.

But don’t despair! Media residential recycling is going strong. The problems facing the recycling market are short-term, and single stream recycling will continue. Media Borough contracts with a recycler, J.P. Mascaro, whose state-of-the-art recycling facility, Total Recycle, uses equipment that is only 5 years old. Unlike older facilities, they are able to produce a very clean product and have no problems finding markets for it. For a very interesting video on the Total Recycle equipment and how it works, click here.

Bottom line: Media residential recycling IS recycled! Media residents are great recyclers! Keep going strong!

The problem is plastic. The overwhelming majority of plastics are “SUP”—”Single Use Plastics.”

Got E-Waste, Etc? Try Earth 911: With the pandemic the borough has not been able to hold an E-Waste recycling event in a long time. Same with the County Household Hazardous Waste events.  Are you accumulating quantities of CFLs or fluorescent tubes?  Old CDs?  Packing peanuts? If you have items that are not accepted by the Media Borough Residential Recycling Program try the website Earth911.  The site offers a search function—you enter your zip code and the material you want to recycle, and you get a list of places in your area that accept it.

Plastics #1-7 are accepted by recyclers, but for the most part only #1 and 2 have a reliable market for other uses—carpeting, clothing and benches—and then at the end of their life those products end up in an incinerator or a landfill. Also, 91% of plastics manufactured are not recycled at all. Plastic in the environment does not break down, it breaks up—over time, into tiny microplastic fragments that get into everything—including our bodies. These microplastics, and the chemicals that are added to them during processing, harm our health by potentially causing endocrine disruption, hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems like infertility, and even cancer. Marine biologists are finding high concentrations of microplastics in the most remote parts of the ocean floor, as well as in marine life. We are consuming this plastic in the fish we eat.

Yet plastic production is expected to grow by 40% over the next 5 years.

What can we do? Keep recycling strong and reduce our purchase of plastics. Ask your favorite stores and restaurants to do the same. Communicate with your state and federal representatives on this issue. Write to companies that manufacture and use plastic in their products. Google “Zero Waste” for ideas on how you can move away from single-use plastic.

When I read Zero Waste blogs I can gather many great ideas. But when I look around my kitchen and consider all the plastic my food comes in and what I would have to do to live a Zero Waste life, I want to scream. My linguine comes in a plastic package. I unthinkingly bought spaghetti sauce that came in a single-use plastic jar. Do I need to buy my tomatoes at the Farmers Market in a cloth bag, boil them down, make my own sauce and can it? Make my own bread and pasta from scratch? Every night? After work? After I put the kids to bed? I can’t do it! Stop judging me!

Then I calm down. We can’t do it all, and we can’t do it alone.

We will not get close to “Zero Waste” until we live in a world of systems that are in sync with preserving natural resources and geared toward recyclable, reusable manufactured components.

So, if you want to do more, just. pick. one. thing.

Figure out how not to need plastic water bottles. Or plastic grocery bags. Or plastic utensils and straws. Or get used to carrying a kit with reusable straw, travel cup and utensils. Fit it in under your stress level. Make it easy.

Truth be told, I like baking bread. I have even been known to make tomato sauce from scratch. When I am not stressed, I like thinking of new ways to reduce SUP. What can I use to cover the bread dough instead of plastic wrap? Oh! A plate works! Glass storage containers are expensive. What about Mason jars? Or instead of recycling empty glass jam or pickle jars, repurpose them for storage. There are many avenues to reducing plastic waste. Pick one that suits you.

“Great things are done by a series of small things put together.“ — Vincent Van Gogh

Zero Waste and Eating Out: As restaurants start to re-open during the pandemic, they are being encouraged to use disposable utensils, plates, napkins, condiments and menus.  Springtime for the plastic manufacturer; Winter for the Zero Waster.   Maybe this looks like two steps backward, but keep in mind that this is a temporary measure, as we learn more about COVID and customers and businesses gain confidence in solid, science-based sanitation protocols.