Toss Those Halloween Candy Wrappers

Halloween is fast approaching, and as you work your way through the never-ending supply of candy, remember that candy wrappers are not recyclable. They need to be thrown in the trash.

Candy wrappers can’t be recycled because they are made of a mix of materials — plastic and aluminum — that are expensive and difficult to separate. Wrappers are also so small that they are difficult to separate from the rest of your recycling.

However, if you’re organizing a big halloween party, and there’s going to be a ton of candy, consider ordering a TerraCycle Candy and Snack Wrappers Zero Waste Box. This way the wrappers can be mailed in to be recycled and reused appropriately.

News From the Northwest: Strawless in Seattle

All businesses that sell food and beverages in Seattle will be required to stop using disposable plastic straws and cutlery by July 1, 2018. The plastic straw and cutlery ban is the next stage of a 2008 law phasing out plastic items from Seattle’s food industry.

In support of a campaign called Strawless in Seattle, about 200 restaurants agreed to make the switch to compostable straws last month. Instead of waiting for the ban to be implemented, they are trading in the plastic straw now. Its replacement? A paper option proven to biodegrade within 45-90 days.

Strawless in Seattle was launched by the nonprofit Lonely Whale Foundation, and expects to prevent 1 million plastic straws from being used in its first month. Ocean plastics are a huge dilemma for ecosystem health — scientists estimate that nearly 300 marine species are affected by eating or getting caught in plastic in the ocean.

Learn more about the disposable straw campaign here.

How to Conduct a Home Energy Audit

Known for two decades as National Energy Awareness Month, in 2011 President Obama declared October National Energy Action Month. He wanted to encourage citizens and organizations to not only be aware, but take direct action on issues of energy. Conserving energy — and increasing our use of clean energy — can have long-term impacts on the economy, wealth and resources of the U.S.

One way you can take action this month is by conducting a home energy audit. You can save 5-30 percent on your home energy bill by making efficiency upgrades. Here’s how to audit your home:

1. Check Lighting Efficiency

If you haven’t yet, consider switching to energy-efficient incandescent bulbs, CFLs or LEDs. Make sure you choose bulbs according to the level of lumens, or brightness, you want. Also consider using sensors, dimmers and timers to reduce how much light you use. Lighting accounts for about 10 percent of your energy bill, so choosing energy efficient bulbs can have a big impact over time.

2. Assess Appliances and Electronics

Consider unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use to prevent phantom loads. You can also select energy-saving settings and minimize use when possible. Estimate how much energy each appliance uses with this tool, and learn about selecting energy-efficient appliances here.

3. Inspect Heating and Cooling Equipment

A professional should check and clean your heating and cooling units once a year. If your unit is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, energy-conserving model. A newer model would greatly reduce your energy use. Forced-air furnace filters should be changed every 1-2 months. If you can see streaks of dirt on your ductwork, this means they are leaking air — seal them with duct mastic. If you have any ducts or pipes traveling through open spaces, make sure they are insulated (an R-Value of 6 is recommended).

4. Locate and Seal Air Leaks

Reducing air leaks — or drafts — in your home can save you 10-20 percent on energy each year. Find air leaks by noticing gaps along junctures in your flooring, walls and ceiling. Windows, doors, fireplaces and other wall and ceiling fixtures are good places to check, too. Outside your home, check for gaps where different building materials meet.

Once you have found them, seal air leaks with caulk or weatherstripping. Find more tips on detecting air leaks here.

5. Check Insulation

It’s easiest to check insulation with a thermographic inspection done by a professional, which uses infrared imaging to detect variations in heat. If you are checking insulation yourself, there are some health and safety risks due to the potential presence of asbestos, the electrical wire inside walls, and the process of climbing up into an attic where nails may be exposed and there are open gaps between joists that one could fall through. If you choose to check your home’s insulation yourself, please follow Energy Star’s instructions carefully.

More Tips

Recycle Your Batteries Safely

As our world has become more digital, it has also gained many batteries. From laptops to cell phones, tablets to headphones, hoverboards to e-cigarettes, the list of battery-powered electronic devices is long. Batteries are banned from the trash because they contain metals and other toxic and corrosive chemicals that can leach into the environment.

Many batteries also hold a residual charge, which means they can spark if they come into contact with other metals. A spark can quickly turn into a fire or explosion, so it’s important to dispose of batteries safely.

How do you safely dispose of batteries? Follow these tips:

  • Bag or tape batteries individually prior to dropping them off or shipping them to be recycled.
  • Do not use paper-based products to wrap batteries, because they are flammable and can feed a potential fire.
  • Dispose of your batteries as hazardous waste, or look up the type of battery in our Recycling Guide to find a nearby collection site.
  • If you have a battery or cell phone that is damaged — meaning swollen, corroded, leaking or showing burn marks, or if it has been recalled by the manufacturer — do one of the following: Place it in a clear plastic bag and take it to a nearby hazardous waste recycling center, or contact a local Call2Recycle drop-off site to see if it accepts damaged batteries. Do not place a damaged battery in the trash for any reason.

Learn more about battery safety at Call2Recycle’s website.

How Aluminum Is Recycled

Check out this video by HowStuffWorks to see how aluminum is recycled. Aluminum is recycled so efficiently a soda can could wind up back in your fridge within three months.

Your Classic Tailgating Cup Is Recyclable

No one can deny that the red Solo cup is a cultural icon: it makes us think of tailgating, barbecues, college parties and more recently, Toby Keith’s hugely popular song. When you fill one up this season, keep in mind that the rigid plastic #6 cup is recyclable curbside. When thrown away, it doesn’t take a quick 14 years to decompose, as Keith’s lyrics suggest. Estimates range closer to 450 years.

What can you use instead of Solo cups? Try reusable cups. (If you want red ones, you can check out these from Red Cup Living.)

That said, if your tailgating party just won’t be the same without the classic Solo cups, reuse them as much as you can, and then remember to recycle them.

Why Recycling Plastics Is More Important Than You Realize

Have you ever wondered just how much plastic exists in the world, and how much has ended up in the trash? The authors of a new study published in Science Advances have.

Researchers dug into information dating back to the 1950s, when plastics first began to be mass produced. They found that, since then, we have generated 9 million tons of plastic worldwide. That’s enough plastic to cover all of Argentina up to ankle-height, or Texas four times over. Some of this plastic is still in use, but the bulk of it has become plastic waste.

How much plastic has been recycled? About 9 percent. Close to 5.5 million tons is either in landfills or has become litter in the environment. While recycling rates lag, the trash is only increasing: the amount of plastic we produce is doubling approximately every 15 years.

This study is the first to track all plastics ever made — and what’s become of them. It was inspired by a desire to know the full extent of the plastics issue. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” stated Roland Geyer, the study’s lead author.

What does this large amount of plastic trash mean for us?

  • We have a lot of trash that is not going to decompose easily. Some plastics, such as typical plastic bottles, are estimated to take 450 years to degrade. However, some research indicates that plastic will never fully decompose — it will only break down into smaller pieces of plastic.
  • Recycling and reusing plastic is important if we don’t want it to end up as waste.
  • Reducing consumption is even more important than recycling or reusing, since plastic cannot be infinitely recycled, and will eventually end up as waste.
  • Scientists estimate that between 5 and 14 million tons of plastic waste make their way into the ocean each year, the environmental impact of which is not fully known.

Learn more about how plastic is disposed of in Stockton.

Bathroom Products: What to Recycle

When we think of places we can recycle, the bathroom isn’t necessarily the first that comes to mind. However, a lot of the products we use in the bathroom are recyclable. Keep reading to see which items you can keep out of the trash and get tips on how to reduce your overall waste.

Paperboard Products: Recyclable

Paperboard products are recyclable as cardboard. These include:

Make sure cardboard is clean and dry before recycling it.

Plastic Bottles: Recyclable

Plastic bottles are recyclable in Stockton. You don’t have to remove the labels. Just rinse and dry them like you would any other plastic container. Keep in mind that pumps are not recyclable — they are made from mixed materials that are too difficult for most facilities to separate.

Plastic materials include:

  • Lotion bottles (no pump)
  • Shampoo & conditioner bottles (no pump)
  • Mouthwash bottles
  • Liquid soap bottles (hand soap, face wash, body wash)

Plastic Wrap: Recyclable, But Not Curbside

The plastic wrap that tissue boxes, toilet paper, diapers and cotton balls come in is not recyclable curbside. However, you can easily recycle it with plastic bags. Find out how to recycle plastic bags here.

Dental Care Products: Recyclable, But Not Curbside

Dental care products are not recyclable curbside. You can, however, recycle these products through mail-in recycling programs. Check out TerraCycle’s Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Recycling Program and Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program.

Here are some of the oral care products that you can recycle through mail-in programs:

Remember to Reduce

Recycling is great, but reducing waste is even better for the environment. Here are some tips for reducing your waste in the bathroom:

  • Place a small bin next to your bathroom garbage to collect your bathroom recycling. You will probably recycle more often if you don’t have to walk every item out to your main recycling.
  • Use bar soap instead of body wash. Bar soap is more efficient and requires minimal packaging, whereas body wash tends to be used up quickly and comes packaged in giant plastic bottles.
  • Opt for reusable soap dispensers, and refill them from a bulk soap container.
  • Buy tube-free toilet paper so you can skip recycling the cardboard tube.
  • Avoid single-use products whenever possible.
  • Choose products that come in minimal packaging, or packaging that is recyclable in Stockton.

School Lunches: The Cost of Convenience

Packing school lunches it not likely to make many parents’ list of favorite daily chores, and it’s tempting to go for pre-packaged single-serving items that are easy to toss into a lunch box. We know that there’s an environmental cost to all that packaging, but it turns out there’s also a significant cost to your wallet.

To save you the time — and inconvenience! — we’ve run some numbers on the true cost of convenience, so you can decide for yourself when it makes sense to give up the single-serving items in favor of reusables.

Water

If you pack a small, single-use water bottle, how much are you spending? Absolute cheapest, at a club store, probably $0.11 per bottle, but they run as much as $0.38 per bottle. A reusable thermos, with or without a straw, tends to cost between $12 and $15. So depending on how much you’re paying for bottled water, the thermos pays off in 2-5 months.

Juice

A juice box or pouch runs about $0.30-$0.60 per 6 oz. If you buy juice in bulk instead, and send it in a little thermos, it will take as few as 3 months to make up the price difference.

Sandwich and Snack Bags

Resealable, single-use plastic sandwich or snack bags tend to cost about $0.02-$0.03 per bag. A pack of four reusable bags costs about $14, or $3.50 per bag. All you have to do is shake or wipe them out if they get too dirty. If you’re packing two lunches that each have one sandwich bag and one snack bag, it will take you 5-7 months of school lunches to recoup that $14.

Lunch Combo Packs

Lunch packs such as Lunchables have been popular for decades. A simple pack contains roughly one ounce each of crackers, deli meat and cheese, and costs about $1.68. That price seems hard to beat, right? But to make your own at home, after buying 16 oz of crackers, 16 oz of deli meat, and 16 oz of cheese, the same 3-ounce combination costs roughly $0.83 per serving, and uses up much less packaging. That savings, about $0.85 per day, pays for a $12 reusable bento-style lunchbox within a mere 3 weeks.

Ultimately, switching from single-use to reusable items isn’t only about saving money. You’ll create less waste, and you’ll almost surely consume healthier, higher-quality foods in the process.

For more ideas on how to save money and create less waste when packing school lunches, visit wastefreelunches.org.

Cartons Are Not Recyclable

Have you been tossing milk and juice cartons in with your other recycling? They’re actually not recyclable here. Because they are made out of both paper and plastic, and sometimes aluminum as well, they are more difficult to process. Facilities that do this kind of work are still limited.

What are cartons? Cartons are paperboard lined with a thin layer of plastic, such as juice boxes or Tetrapak.

Cartons include containers for: Milk, milk alternatives, juice, broth, soup, cream, egg substitutes, wine and anything marked as Tetrapak.