Zero Waste Challenge, Librarian Style: Day 2

Its day 3 and this challenge is just getting good!  Yesterday I accumulated five more items of trash that I could not recycle. After putting in my research, I have learned more about what I can’t, and surprisingly can, recycle from my every day activities.  Some have a simple reason why not, while other posed a bit of a puzzle.  To recap, my first item was a coffee soaked paper towel, which can’t be recycled due to having food waste on it. Coincidentally, my second item was also a paper towel from washing my hands in a public bathroom. To help keep track I have placed a number by each new item I have accumulated during day 2 and below is the story behind that item.



1. Yesterday I was using a public restroom and was faced with a predicament after I washed my hands.  I looked around for hand dryers like we have here at Moraine and found a disappointed self looking back at me in the mirror.  My hand were still cold from being outside and wet cold hands aren’t pleasant.  Knowing I would have to use the paper towel I started to shake my hands in the air and count to 12.  Then I took one paper towel and folded it in half.  I learned this trick from a TED talk a friend sent me last year.   One towel really is all you need.  This got me thinking though, what is better hand dryers or paper towels?  I’ve heard the argument both ways, some say hand dryer’s use too much energy others say paper towels produce too much waste.  To get the facts I used GreenFILE (one of the many databases we have here at Moraine for research needs) and found this article.  I guess hand dryers are the winner due to less waste and less carbon emissions.

2. When offered your favorite piece of candy who turns that down?  Boy am I a sucker for Starburst, but I almost didn’t accept this treat because I knew the wrapping is not recyclable.  Even though it is paper wrapping, its covered in a wax coating which prevents it from being recycled.  The same goes for laminated paper.  In terms of re-use Starburst wrappers are great for crafts, here is a tutorial on how to make a bracelet or a necklace using a folding technique.

3. Flu season is approaching and one method to stay healthy is good ol’ vitamin C.  Nothing like a good cup of O.J. in the morning to brighten your day.  This morning I went to open a new jug of Tropicana, and realized that even though the bottle itself is recyclable, the pull off seal probably isn’t.  To find out more I checked online and searched their company website.  Coming up with no solid answer, I decided to call Tropicana and see if they can answer my question.  After talking to a polite Mary Ann, she informed me that the seal is a multi-material packaging piece that can’t be recycled.  My hunch was right, its an item that can’t be recycled and so far I have not found an alternative use for this item, so this really does have no place to go unfortunately except to the landfill.

burlap4. Last Christmas I was given a spa kit from a co-worker that came in a great burlap bag.  I had saved the bag in hopes of finding a means of re-purposing it as a gift bag in the future.  Last night I attended a housewarming party, and decided to fill that bag with cookies and goodies for my friends.   The only problem was the bag had a burlap tag on it with the spa kit name and company.  Snip snip and the bag was good to go.  Only problem now, what to do with this piece of burlap.  It is not recyclable since fabrics are not recycled through a curbside waste/recycling service.  Normally when I have an item that can be recycled in theory but isn’t recycled by my waste hauler, I use Earth911‘s Recycling Center Search.  Through that I find a location near me that collects that particular item. When I searched for burlap, no results came up. Larger pieces of burlap are often reused to make bags or used in crafts.   Putting my re-purposing cap on I think this piece of fabric is the perfect size for a bookmark!


5. Bathrooms don’t clean themselves, and last night it was my turn to get out the baking soda and start scrubbing the tub. When I went to get the baking soda I realized I had to open up a new bag, which means I had to generate some waste… maybe.  The top edge of the bag had to be cut off, and that little strip of plastic was my waste.  I looked on the bag and didn’t see any indication that it was recyclable.  To confirm this I searched the company website and found no information on the packaging.  My go to solution, call the company and ask them.  As it turns out the bag is grade 7 plastic, which means I can recycle it!  Well that’s one less item I have to carry around for the week!

Stay tuned for more updates from this Zero Waste Challenge, Librarian Style!



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Zero Waste Challenge, Librarian Style: Day 1

CAM01257-1Hello, my name is Elena and I accept the challenge. Last week GoGreen! Club here at Moraine posed a challenge to the campus community, to carry around any trash you generate during that week that you don’t or you can’t recycle. Being an environmentally minded person who avidly recycles as much as I can this intrigued me.  It got me thinking more about those items that are still part of my day but I can’t recycle.  Being a librarian who is always on the quest for facts and information, I have decided to collect  my trash for a week and try to find out what items we can’t recycle, why we can’t and if there is an alternative to that item.

So often we generate non-recyclable items but because we just throw it away, it leaves our thoughts.  It’s as if once we put that item in the trashcan and it magically disappears, poof! Sadly though, that is not the case.  The trash that I, you, your family and even the Queen of England herself produce ends up in a landfill, forever underground with the hopes that we all are satisfied with the notion “out of sight out of mind.” Personally, I stopped believing in magic long ago.

My first item for my bag is a coffee soaked paper towel.  Spills happen and since it wasn’t milk, I didn’t take the time to cry over it. Instead I ran around the office trying to find something anything to stop this slow but steady pool of caffeine from growing.  Frantically I ask a co-worker “do we have towels!?” and of course they do have towels, but the paper kind.  Paper towels that have food on them or cleaning products can not be recycled due to contamination.  The recycling process for paper involves water that would get quite gross with food waste mixed in with it.  A great example of a recyclable material that can’t be recycled is pizza boxes.

Sometimes our surroundings do not match our personal mission and we have to make do.  At home, the best solution I have found for a spill is to use old towels or t-shirt rags depending on the size.  Best solution for work?  Maybe I could have a couple cleaning rags from home ready in my desk drawer just in case.

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