Toward Zero Waste
The world of waste materials is so complicated that even the experts struggle to understand how to make the most impact. Still, there are obvious ways in which we can make a difference. One simply immediate way is to reduce packaging.
According to the EPA, containers and packaging accounted for 28% of waste received at municipal landfills (the latest figures available). Purchasing in bulk, bringing your own bags and selecting products with minimal packaging are good ways to keep some waste out of the landfill.
Clearly, reducing waste, heading for Zero Waste, is the ultimate goal. However, for most of us that will be a gradual process as we get more familiar with our waste stream and the alternatives we can choose.
We began the Recycling Intitiative to begin to help reduce waste in Floyd County. Over the past two years, we’ve established a presence at the Floyd Farmers Market on first Saturdays of the month. Our primary goal is to educate consumers. Our secondary goal is to reduce the County’s waste stream (it costs the County a lot to send trash to the landfill).
Collections at the Floyd Farmers Market
We collect many harder-to-recycle items on First Saturdays 10 AM-12:30 PM at the Floyd Farmers Market (outside during warm weather, in the Sustain Floyd office during cold weather). See Directions & Parking.
**NOTICE: We can no longer collect #4, #5, or #6 plastic**
We are looking for a new recycler for #5 plastic. Until then, you may save your #5’s, find another use for them, or throw them away. We cannot store anything in the meantime.
We Will Collect the Following on First Saturdays in 2023
- Plastic Film – You may take your plastic film to Food Lion anytime – their bins are to the right of the front doors. However, if you need help learning how to sort recyclable from non-recyclable plastic film, please bring it to us! (Info on eligible plastics)
- Egg cartons
- Printer ink cartridges
- Electronics (no televisions, no cathode ray tubes, no household appliances like microwaves, no light bulbs)–take to the Transfer Station or bring to us. The County is earning a little money from these right now, so help support Floyd County services!
- Used socks!
- Old towels for the Humane Society
- Cardboard 6-pack containers for Republic of Floyd
- Clear glass wine bottles for a local vintner
- Rechargeable household batteries **We are sorry, we will no longer collect household alkaline batteries.
- Razors, razor blades and razor blade packaging
- Burt’s Bees / Tom’s of Maine / Weleda packaging
- Clean dry Mason jars
- Local vendor jars
- Used sneakers (any condition)
- Writing utensils: pens, pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, watercolor dispensers, and paint sets
- Reusable tote bags
- Clean nice reusable soap, shampoo, and liquid containers for the Refill Station (at the back of the Farmer’s Market Pavilion)
- Pristine (like-new) medicine bottles with lids for reuse by a Catholic charity
- Clean, intact, large-sheet bubble wrap for reuse by local vendor(s)
- Brown paper grocery bags for Plenty
IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU MAKE SURE ALL ITEMS ARE CLEAN AND DRY pleeease!
Where Does Everything Go?
Local Vendors & Organizations
Many of the odd items are being collected for local vendors and charitable organizations such as the clear glass wine bottles (local vintner), cardboard 6-pack containers (Republic of Floyd), old towels (Humane Society), egg cartons (Plenty and Weathertop), bubble wrap (Chic’s Antiques), nice grocery bags (Plenty), and mason jars (the Refill Store/Farmers Market vendors).
We are collecting for a number of national programs as well. Some of these, such as Burt’s Bees, BIC’s pen recycling program, Gillette’s razor blade program, and SmartWool’s used sock program pay for shipping. Others, such as the medicine bottles, sneakers, #4 & #5 plastic, and used books we have to deliver or pay for shipping ourselves. We collect donations to cover these costs.
TREX Challenge: Plastic Film
Although we won our TREX challenge to collect 500 lbs of plastic film and won a TREX bench which you can enjoy at the Floyd Farmers Market Pavilion, we still work with homeowners to sort their plastic film into recyclable and non-recyclable materials.
The plastic film we collect or that you take to the recycling bins at Food Lion or any major grocery store gets sent to TREX, the decking manufacturer based in Winchester, VA. TREX uses 95% recycled material in their products.
What is Plastic Film?
Plastic film is the thin plastic that is used for grocery bags, produce bags, and case overwrap. It is stretchy, comes in any color, and may be marked as #2 or #4 plastic, or as “Plastic In-Store Recyclable,” though it often is not marked.
The list of items TREX accepts include: Bread bags, produce bags, newspaper sleeves, pallet wrap and stretch film, salt and ice bags, grocery bags, case overwrap, bubble wrap, wood pellet bags, plastic shipping envelopes, dry cleaning bags, Ziploc and other reclosable food storage bags.
Plastic film used in manufacture and packaging of meat, frozen food, animal feed, compost, and hay is not accepted. Also unacceptable are shiny, crinkly plastics that tear without stretching, very heavy duty (<10 mil) plastic, vinyl (such as picnic table cloths or shower curtains), and oily or highly soiled materials.
Directions & Parking for Recycling Events
You cannot park AT the Farmer’s Market, but there are 3 main parking areas in the immediate vicinity:
- (CLOSEST) At the Village Green (enter from Main Street/Floyd Hwy N). Coming south on Route 8/Locust St, turn left at the light, coming north on Route 8, turn right at the light. Then turn right into the Village Green parking lot. Coming from Floyd Hwy S go through light, turn in to the Village Green on your right after the cluster of buildings at the corner. Coming from Floyd Hwy N, the Village Green is the parking lot on your left before the traffic light.
- Beside the Station–You can’t park under the Farmer’s Market awning but in the parking lot on the other side of the Station. From Floyd Hwy S turn right at the light, from Floyd Hwy N turn left at the light, coming south on Route 8, go through the traffic light: then pass the Farmer’s Market, pass the Station, and turn left into the parking lot. Coming north on Route 8 look for the lot on your right immediately after the Winter Sun building and directly across from the Floyd Country Store.
- Behind the courthouse – the big parking lot behind the courthouse and police station usually has plenty of space. It’s on the NE corner of the traffic light. Turn (east) onto East Oxford Street from Route 8/Locust St. and then immediately into the parking lot. It’s an easy one-block walk from there to the Farmer’s Market (you’ll have to cross at the stoplight).
What is Zero Waste?
Blacksburg’s Carol Davis spoke with Woody Crenshaw during the Blue Ridge Eco Fair about her personal journey to Zero Waste. It is a detailed, specific, eye-opening, personal story that has been very inspiring for many of us.
Some Facts About Plastics and Recycling
It’s confusing in the recycling world. You can put a recycling label—the one called chasing arrow–on any product, whether it can be recycled or not. The arrows with no number in the center indicate that there is no common recycling option for that product! Also, some of the numbers used eg. #7 are rarely accepted for recycling. #7 indicates ‘other plastics’ and is hard to deal with. Here’s more about California’s efforts to address this confusion:
So, what is the use of the recycling logos? They do help to identify the products that can be recycled, and they let you avoid buying the products that are to recycle—those that will almost certainly end up in our landfills and causing pollution.
The message for us all—we need to really pay attention to what’s between those chasing arrows.
Plastic waste can cause harm to the environment, wildlife, and humans. Debris accumulation can cause habitat structures to be changed which can indirectly cause declines in species impacted. Chemical impacts including toxins released from some types of plastics posing hazards to the food chain including some types of seafood and then to humans who consume them. Threats to wildlife include consuming harmful particles of plastic debris and entanglement.
The Seven Types of Plastics
Type #1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
Widely used as bottles for beverages like water and soda. One of the most widely recycled plastics in the world. Currently recycled by Floyd County
Examples: Beverage bottles, Food bottles/jars (salad dressing, peanut butter, honey, etc.) and polyester clothing or rope.
Type #2: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
It is stronger and thicker than PET type 1 plastic. High-Density Polyethylene is strong and resistant to moisture and chemicals which makes it ideal to make containers. It is accepted at most recycling centers around the world. Currently recycled by Floyd County.
Examples: Milk cartons, detergent bottles, cereal box liners, toys, buckets, park benches and rigid pipes.
Type #3: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or Vinyl)
PVC is a hard and rigid plastic that is resistant to chemicals and weathering, as well as resistant to germs, which makes it ideal to use in medical and construction and building purposes. PVC has been found to leach chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury, and cadmium.
Plumbing pipes, credit cards, human and pet toys, rain gutters, teething rings, IV fluid bags and medical tubing and oxygen masks.
Type #4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Thinner and more flexible than HDPE. It is cheap and easy to produce and most commonly recycled at your local grocery store.
Examples: Plastic/cling wrap, sandwich and bread bags, bubble wrap, garbage bags, grocery bags and beverage cups.
Type #5. Polypropylene (PP)
A more heat resistant type of plastic than some others, used to hold hot foods or food packaging to be reheated. Currently collected at SustainFloyd Recycling events.
Examples: Straws, bottle caps, prescription bottles, hot food containers, packaging tape, disposable diapers and DVD/CD boxes
Type #6. Polystyrene (PS)
More widely known as Styrofoam. It is not easily recyclable which means that most ends up in the landfill. It is also known to leach harmful chemicals when heated. This group also includes CD cases, toys, jewellry and other items which can be recycled.
Examples: Cups, takeout food containers, shipping and product packaging, egg cartons, cutlery and building insulation.
Type #7: Miscellaneous/Other
These are not included within the plastics of #1-6 and are typically not recyclable, they also include plastics that are layered or mixed with other plastics.
Examples: Eyeglasses, baby and sports bottles, electronics, CD/DVDs, lighting fixtures and clear plastic cutlery.
Steps of Plastic Recycling
- Collection + distribution: This step includes collection of recyclables from consumers either by the government or private companies.
- Sorting & Organizing: Plastics are sorted by machines in a recycling plant by type of plastic and by other properties like thickness, color, and use.
- Washing: This step removes impurities like labels, food residue, and dirt.
- Shredding: The plastic is fed into shredders and broken down into smaller pieces, this process allows for any remaining impurities to be found like metals.
- Identification and separation of plastics: Plastics are then sorted based on density and thickness and sorted into different classes and quality levels.
- Extruding + compounding: This final step is where the plastics are turned into a product that can then be used by manufacturers. The shredded plastic gets melted and crushed together to form pellets.
The Facts About Plastic Recycling
|1960-2018 Total Plastic Containers and Packaging MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)|
|Combustion with Energy Recovery||–||–||70||1,130||1,960||2,020||2,090||2,460||2,470||2,460|
Sources: American Chemistry Council and National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR).
In 2019, a minimum of 5,094.1 million pounds of post-consumer plastic material sourced in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in the categories of Bottles (by resin), Non-bottle Rigids, Film, and Other Plastics (excluding foam).
As was the case in 2018, most of the plastic recovered for recycling in the U.S. was purchased by reclaimers in the U.S. or Canada (87.9%) versus by overseas markets. A total of 4,476.3 million pounds was reported as reclaimed in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining 617.8 million pounds, or 12.1%, of plastic recovered for recycling was exported overseas.
Plastic bottles continued to make up the majority of the recycled plastic recovered for recycling at 55.2%, or 2,809.4 million pounds, a decrease of 48.5 million pounds as compared to 2018. The amount of plastic resin generated for use in bottles increased by 11 million pounds to 9,878 million pounds in 2019. The all-bottle recycling rate for 2019 was 28.4%, down half a percentage point from 2018.7
EPA estimated 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2018, approximately 5.0 percent of MSW generation. (Plastic packaging as a category in this analysis does not include single-service plates and cups, and trash bags, both of which are classified as nondurable goods).
The recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.1 percent in 2018 (910,000 tons). It is estimated that recycling of HDPE natural bottles (e.g., milk and water bottles) was 220,000 tons, or 29.3 percent of generation. Overall, the amount of recycled plastic containers and packaging in 2018 was almost 2 million tons or 13.6 percent of plastic containers and packaging generated. Additionally, 16.9 percent of the plastic containers and packaging waste generated was combusted with energy recovery, while the remainder (over 69 percent) was landfilled.
The total generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 was 292.4 million tons (U.S. short tons, unless specified) or 4.9 pounds per person per day. Of the MSW generated, approximately 69 million tons were recycled and 25 million tons were composted. Together, almost 94 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 32.1 percent recycling and composting rate.
The recycling rate (including composting) was 32.1 percent in 2018, down from 34.7 percent in 2015.The per capita rates in 2018 were:
- 1.16 pounds per person per day for recycling.
- 0.42 pounds per person per day for composting.
- 0.30 pounds per person per day for other food management.
The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it” Despite only representing 5% of the world population, the U.S. generates more waste than any other country in the world. (World Watch Institute)
In less than 15 years, worldwide waste is expected to double. (World Watch Institute)
Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two person household for one year.