Zero Waste Challenge, Librarian Style: Day 3

bagshotHave you ever been jogging and a dump truck passes by you?  Ever get a good ol’ whiff of that trash? I don’t know about you but I tend to make a face when I smell that truck pass by.   A very similar smell can now be found by opening up my Ziploc bag of trash.  Its odd, it never occurred to me when I would smell that trash on my jogs that it wasn’t someone else’s trash making that stink, it was my trash, mixed with my neighbors trash, mixed with the trash from the restaurant in my building.  Its all of us creating not only these large pits full of waste, but the smell we hate to smell.  We pay someone to drive up, remove our stink, drive gas guzzling trucks to a remote location so we don’t have to smell it or find uses for our items.  We have our waste taken away to magical landfill land.   The missing link in our thought process though is, we all create the disgusting smell.


What is causing this stink is the addition of five items from Tuesday night to this morning.  I have numbered each piece and below is their story.

1. Oh the Keurig, how we love the quick cup of java to get us alert and ready for the day.  Yesterday I was offered a cup of coffee, desperate for that cup of caffeine I accepted.  Turns out, my coffee was from a Keurig, which means I created waste. To find out if the k-cup is recyclable I went to the Kurig’s support page, where I found a long list of questions, but none relating to recycling. To dive deeper I went to their Sustainability page, where I finally found my answer.  Keurig admits their k-cups are not recyclable but they are developing their packaging technology with a recyclable k-cup target date of 2020. In the mean time, they have a program called Grounds to Grow On, that collects their used cups, coffee grounds and all.  The ground are used for compost and the rest of the cups are turned into energy.   Given that their recyclable solution is still just over five years away, I did find a solution in the mean time. Keurig also makes a reusable coffee filter that fits into the same compartment the k-cups would, only you have to fill it with your own coffee and wash it out afterwards.  Not too difficult and you still get a quick cup of coffee!

2. Tuesday night I went out to dinner, and once again had to make a trip to the bathroom.  When it came time to wash my hands, I realized they only had paper towels.  What baffled me was that these towels were different.  The restaurant had paid not only for a much thicker, larger, durable paper towel, but they had the restaurant’s name printed on each one.  You’ll see that I have two other paper towels next to my fancy printed one.  That fancy towel ended up in the same place as all my other plain towels, in my trash.  I don’t see logic in printing your company name on an item that is used and put into a trash can with in seconds, all that ink and effort put into something with such as short use life.  If it is for advertising purposes, would you not already be a patron of their establishment if you are using their restroom?  All I can do is shake my head, and plan on bringing a re-usable towel like this one with me just in case wherever I need to wash my hands happens to have no hand dryers.

3. Stickers, I can honestly say I have never thought about stickers in terms of recycling.  With the weather getting colder and our skin getting dyer, I opened up a new chap stick yesterday.  The label on my chap stick had a colored corner that said in tiny letters, “Lift.”   I did and found the ingredients list, but as I kept pulling the whole label came off.  Now what?  What do you do with stickers?  When I did a general Google search I found a green blog that said stickers are not recyclable, but Post-It notes are.  Given this information was from a blog, and as a librarian I know better than to take that as face value, I did another search to confirm their findings.  Finally I found a source that supported the fact that stickers can’t be recycled because the adhesives clog up the recycling process.  My second search also added in another piece of information that is good to know, postage is okay to put in your recycling!  Who knew!

4. Yesterday it was coffee, today it was tea.  Woke up this morning craving some Earl Grey. After putting my tea bag in my mug I took a look at its packaging.  Its paper, technically, but has a very smooth almost glossy texture to it, which made me wonder, is it recyclable? The company website has a social responsibility page but no information on the packaging. A call to the company resulted in my leaving a detailed message.  Stay tuned for my next post to see if the makers of great tea listen to their voice mails!

5. A snack a day keeps rumblings tummies at bay. Even though I was not the only person to enjoy pita chips from this bag, I was the last one to finish up the crumbs meaning it was my responsibility to put it in the trash.  Years ago I had heard about a company called Terra Cycle, which takes chip bags, candy wrappers and other non-recyclable items and they turn those items into other products.  Sadly though this great company only accepts certain bags and the brand I have is not on the list.  So I decided to start an online chat session (similar to our Ask a Librarian) with the customer service department of Stacy’s Pita Chips.  After my friendly chat, the end result was, no they are not recyclable.  The plastic used to make the bags does not break down properly in the recycling process.  This got me thinking, if I want pita chips why not make them at home to avoid creating more waste? In our book collection we have many different cook books, and after browsing the TX section of the stacks I found a book called The Bread Maker’s Apprentice which had a simple, inexpensive pita chip recipe!

Stay tuned next Monday to see what sort of trash and questions the weekend brings in my final leg of the Zero Waste Challenge!



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