Tricks to Beat the Plastic-Wrapped Treats

candy corn in mug

Scientists agree that single-use plastic is a big problem for our planet. Straws, takeout containers and plastic grocery bags are banned or in the process of being banned in many cities and states across the country. Unfortunately, single-use plastics seem to be built into many of our holiday traditions. Here are some simple tips to help you ditch the single-use plastic candy wrappers this Halloween.

Halloween Candy

Americans bought 600 million pounds of Halloween candy in 2019, and of the top ten most loved brands, eight are wrapped in plastic. For a holiday that encompasses just a single night, that’s a whole lot of single-use plastic.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to recycle plastic wrappers. They’re too small to be sorted effectively by machines or by humans working on a fast moving sorting line. So wrappers must be thrown in the garbage where they will end up in a landfill.

If you love candy, but hate the waste check out these sweet tips:

  • Buy from the Bulk Bins
    Many stores and candy shops offer bulk candy which can be put directly into a container or jar. Even if candy is individually plastic-wrapped, buying from the bulk bin eliminates the need for a big plastic package.
  • No-Wrapper Candy
    (e.g. candy corn, gummy bears and chocolate covered raisins)
    Some candies can be purchased from the bulk bins with no wrapper, which is the most environmentally-friendly option. No-wrapper candies are perfect for candy bowls at home and other places where germs are less of a concern.
  • Foil-Wrapped Candy
    (e.g. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Kisses and gold coins)
    While the wrappers will still be too small to recycle, foil is non-toxic and decomposes more rapidly than plastic.
  • Paper- and WaxPaper-Wrapped Candy
    (e.g. Pixy Stix and Bits-O-Honey)
    Like foil-wrapped candy, these items are too small to be recycled but are less toxic than plastic.
  • Paper-Boxed Candies
    (e.g. Nerds, Dots, Milk Duds, chocolate-covered raisins and Junior Mints)
    Paper boxes can be recycled once empty. Unlike plastic wrappers, paper boxes can be shredded into pulp and recycled various paper products. Place empty paper boxes into a paper bag and staple shut before placing in the recycling.

No matter how you celebrate this Halloween, do your part to minimize single-use plastic and reduce your impact on the planet.

California Expands Drug Takeback Program

pills on orange background

Keeping old medicine in the home can be problematic. It’s proven to increase illegal consumption by undesignated users, both accidentally and recreationally. Improperly disposing medicine in the trash can also lead to illicit usage, while flushing it risks polluting our water systems. Traces of pharmaceuticals are already being found in streams and tap water across the county.

So what can you do with unwanted medications? That’s easy: properly dispose of it at any of over 300 designated disposal locations across California.

Thanks to a recent partnership between the California Product Stewardship Council, National Stewardship Action Council, and voluntary actions of over 13 local municipalities and grocery stores, there are many new safe take-back locations for California residents. The partnership known as the California Drug Take-Back Program has expanded for the disposal of unused or unwanted medication to more than 300 sites across the state!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Remove pills from bottle or other container.
  2. Keep creams and liquids in original containers and remove or cover your name and other sensitive information.
  3. Bring pills in a zipper bag and any liquids/creams to a location on the map (below) and place in the proper bin.

Check out the map below to find a convenient location near you. More information about the program, including what you can and cannot include, can be found at www.takebackdrugs.org.


Re-Waterproofing Jackets

Rain drops on jacket

There is something amazing about a good waterproof jacket that keeps you dry through those wet, rainy days. However, without proper care you might find the water-resistant coating on your gear starts to fade, leaving you wet when you should be dry. Don’t fret, we’re here to help.

What is DWR?

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is a finish applied to the outside of winter outerwear to make it resist water. Unlike non-porous waterproof gear, gear with DWR is designed to “breathe,” letting excess body heat escape while also keeping you dry.

How to Keep DWR Working

To work well, your DWR coated gear needs to be washed every five to six uses. Dirt, oils and other debris reduce the effectiveness of the coating and will eventually allow moisture to get through your jacket. To wash your water-resistant jacket, consult the tag for care instructions. If you’re confused by the symbols on the tag, check out this simple guide. If the tag is missing or illegible, wash using cold water and a no-additive, scent-free detergent, either by hand or in a washing machine. Once clean, dry on low heat or hang to dry. Scented detergents or additives like fabric softener can reduce the effectiveness of the water-resistant coating.

Re-waterproofing

You’ll know it’s time to recoat your jacket when it immediately gets soaked in wet weather. First wash the jacket that needs recoating using the instructions above. Then use a spray-on DWR coating, being sure to apply to all exterior surfaces but none of the interior. Let it dry completely before venturing out into wet weather. If your jacket is leaking at a seam, you can usually fix it by retaping the seam with waterproof seam tape.

When to Replace

When you start to notice the interior lamination of your jacket is coming apart, that’s a sign that it’s time to replace it. Consider keeping old rain jackets for use as windbreakers. When you select your next outerwear layer look for one with an eco-friendly fluorine-free DWR coating.

Reusables in the Age of COVID

reusable containers

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. These three Rs have framed how to be a responsible consumer for decades. Now, in the midst of a health crisis caused by a highly infectious disease, consumers are struggling to understand if the middle R — Reuse — is safe or not. Luckily for us, the good folks at The Indisposable Podcast have brought together an epidemiologist and leaders from the reuse industry to get to the bottom of this important issue. Listen along below!

Environmental Footprint of Milk Containers

bowl of cereal

From traditional cow milk to vegan options like hemp milk, a wide variety of milk is available these days. Milk comes in three main types of packaging: the carton, the plastic jug and the glass bottle. Let’s go through the pros and cons of each of these packaging options to determine which is friendliest to our planet.

Cartons

Pros:

  • Milk cartons are lightweight, which minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to transportation. Less weight also means less material used in creating new cartons. On average a carton is 94% product and 6% container by weight.
  • Recycled cartons are used to make office paper, tissue paper, and building materials.

Cons:

  • Paper cartons can’t be recycled into new cartons. This means all milk cartons must be made from virgin materials.

Plastic Jug

Pros:

  • Plastic jugs are made of a single material and therefore can be recycled.
  • Plastic jugs are the lightest weight option of the three most common container types. On average a plastic jug is 96% product and 4% container by weight. This means they have the lowest GHG emissions related to transportation.

Cons:

  • Plastic jugs are not recycled into new plastic jugs due to sanitary concerns. Plastic jugs are typically “downcycled” into materials such as composite lumber. This means virgin plastic is used for all plastic jugs.
  • Plastic is made from fossil fuels.

Glass Bottles

Pros:

  • Glass bottles are highly recyclable. Recycled bottles can be made into new bottles.
  • Some brands such as Straus reuse bottles through a deposit system. This eliminates the energy needed to remanufacture bottles.

Cons:

  • Glass is heavy. On average a glass bottle is 75% product and 25% container by weight. Transporting milk in glass results in higher GHG emissions than transporting milk in cartons or plastic jugs.
  • Extracting new materials for new glass is energy-intensive.

While each type of container has its pros and cons, glass bottles are the most environmentally friendly option. This is due to the fact that extraction and manufacturing require the most energy in a milk container’s lifecycle. Glass bottles have a clear advantage over cartons and plastic jugs because they can be easily recycled into new bottles or even reused without remanufacturing. However, milk sold in glass bottles is usually more expensive than milk sold in cartons or plastic jugs. If milk sold in glass is too expensive, reach for the plastic jug instead. Remember to recycle your glass bottles, plastic jugs and cartons completely empty.

Ask The Experts: What Can I Do with Old T-Shirts?

t-shirts on hangers
recycle questions

Have a tough recycling question?
We’re here to help! Ask the Experts »

Q: I’ve got too many t-shirts. What can I do other than throw them away?

A: Many of us have a shelf or drawer filled with t-shirts from events or gatherings that are meaningful. But what can you do when, over time, these items wear out, or there are just too many of them? Repurpose them! There are a lot of easy home crafts and interesting ways to reuse an old t-shirt and save it from going to a landfill.

New or Usable T-Shirts

Some t-shirts just aren’t the right size or fit, or don’t get worn as much as originally planned. If they’re new or like-new, they can be donated to a local thrift store or charity. If a t-shirt is the right look but not the right fit, consider cutting the sleeves or neck. T-shirts still in somewhat good condition can also be donated to companies that will repurpose them into a new product.

Old and Worn Out T-Shirts

Worn out t-shirts can be cut up into small pieces to be used as cleaning rags around the house. Or cut them into strips and knot or braid them, to create an entertaining dog toy — just make sure your dog doesn’t eat it.

Sentimental T-Shirts

Old t-shirts with sentimental value that still have some life in them make great pieces for a quilt. There are many patterns available online, or craftspeople who accept whole shirts and can do the project from start to finish.

Get Crafty

There are many easy at-home craft projects that are perfect for old t-shirts. These include making bracelets, headbands, plant hangers and so much more. This helpful list provides many options for t-shirt crafts.

Steel: The Most Recycled Material in the World

person recycling steel

Did you know that steel is the most recycled material in the world? In North America, we recycle around 80 million tons of steel each year. That’s more than the weight of all of the cars in the entire state of California. It’s also more than all the paper, plastic, aluminum and glass we recycle each year combined.

Why Recycle Steel?

Steel recycling is good for the environment because the more steel we recycle, the less mining for new metals we have to do. Every ton of steel we recycle saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. It also saves energy — recycling steel uses 74% less energy than creating steel from raw materials.

Why Is Steel So Recyclable?

Steel can be recycled over and over again to produce new steel. Why is it so easy to recycle? First, it’s magnetic, so it’s easy to separate from other metals. Second, unlike recycled paper or glass, which suffer from degradation when recycled, steel doesn’t lose any strength when it’s re-melted to make new steel, so it doesn’t lose any of its value.

What Is Steel Used For?

From cars and skyscrapers to soup cans and sardine tins, steel is used to make many of the objects we interact with every day.

Here’s a list of common steel items:
(Click to see how each item can be recycled)

Steel can be used in any of the applications above then be melted down and remanufactured into any of the other items on the list — or even the same item. Isn’t recycling neat?

How Do I Recycle Steel?

It depends on the item. Items such as food cans can be put in your curbside recycling. However, if your steel is scrap metal or large appliances or small appliances, check to see if a scrapyard will take it.

If you have scrap metal you’d like to sell to a scrapyard, start by determining the market price for the metal you have. (A few cans or small steel items are unlikely to be worth the trip.) Then, find a scrapyard by looking up your zip code in the iScrap app. When you bring in your steel, you can recycle other kinds of scrap metal at the same time, including aluminum, copper, brass and cast iron.

Reuse Broken Planters and Grow Beautiful Houseplants

It’s easy to spend money on plants. From chic planters to the newest and cutest blooms, not to mention potting soil and fertilizer, it really starts to add up. But you don’t have to break the bank to grow beautiful houseplants. Just follow these tips to cut back on how much you’re spending. After all, reducing and reusing are two of the three R’s!

Fixing Broken Planters

Breaking planters is all too easy. From window ledges to curious cats to failed macramé knots, there are plenty of ways to send one tumbling. Unfortunately, whether they’re ceramic or terracotta, they’re not recyclable. But it doesn’t have to mean the trash. Here are some ways to repair or upcycle your damaged planters:

  • Planters with cracks, fine lines or fewer broken pieces can be sealed with an epoxy glue or cement adhesive. This will make them watertight, extend their life, and it can even give them a fun, modern look. Alternately, you can take the more glamorous Kintsugi approach by adding a gold or silver tint to your epoxy.
  • Consider repainting the planter, by hand or with spray paint, if you dislike the look after the epoxy has dried. This is also a great way to spruce up any planters whose colors have washed out or faded — they’ll look brand new.
  • Use broken planter pieces as stones in the bottom of other plant pots to help with drainage. This is especially useful in planters that don’t have a drainage hole, so the bottom layer of soil doesn’t get stuck sitting in extra water. Too much stagnant water can cause the soil to become moldy and give your plants root rot.
  • Repurpose your planter pieces. Turn them into plant labels for your garden, succulent terrariums or a mosaic.

Starting Plants From Cuttings

Many houseplants can be turned into new plants just by taking cuttings. This includes succulents, vines, snake plants and monsteras. Check out the video below to see the four main ways plants can be propagated. Then, double check the right way to propagate the plant you’re interested in and get started! Ask friends and family if they’ll give you any cuttings from their plants, or offer to trade with them. Pro tip: Add some liquid organic fertilizer once a week to get your cuttings growing even faster.

Starting Plants From Kitchen Scraps

Food scraps left over from fruits and veggies, including pineapple tops, avocado pits and lemon seeds, can be used to grow beautiful, unique plants for your home. Follow these instructions from A Piece of Rainbow to learn more.

Top Troublemakers: Plastic Bags

plastic bags

When it comes to disposing of plastic bags, you can either recycle them through a store drop off program or toss them in the trash. Plastic bags cannot be recycled in your curbside recycling. Let’s break down why they are so problematic when tossed in the wrong bin.

The reason lies in how things get recycled.

Everything in your recycling bin first goes to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where items get sorted into like piles. Plastic bottles end up in their own pile, as does cardboard, glass, steel, aluminum, and other types of hard plastic containers. Plastic bags, however, do not end up in their own special pile but instead in the leftovers called “residuals”. The residuals go to the landfill and are essentially all of the material that were not supposed to be put in the recycle bin in the first place. Plastic bags are residual because they can’t be efficiently sorted with the machinery available at Materials Recovery Facilities.

Not only do plastic bags end up in the landfill, they reduce the efficiency of recycling at the MRF. Plastic bags, because of their lightweight and flimsy nature, can easily get tangled in the machinery. Think of what would happen, for example, if you tried to vacuum a plastic bag. Chances are it would get wrapped around the rotating brush of the vacuum and get clogged somewhere along the system. That is essentially what happens at the MRF, at which point workers have to shut down the entire operation and climb into the dangerous machinery to remove the bag.

So why are many plastic bags labeled “recyclable”? Because the material can be recycled with the right equipment. To recycle your plastic bags you must take them to a store drop off location. Plastic bags can be recycled into various low grade plastic items such as new plastic bags or composite lumber. Please note that this list is not always up to date and during the COVID-19 pandemic some locations are not taking bags.

Extend the Life of Your Wooden Cutting Boards and Kitchenware

Cutting Board

Cutting boards, butcher blocks, cheese boards, salad bowls, spoons, spatulas: There are a lot of kitchen items that are commonly made from wood. Properly caring for these items can make a big difference in how long they last. A wood cutting board, for example, might last only a year if it’s mistreated or neglected. But when well cared for, a cutting board can last over 10 years.

In order to give your wooden cutting boards and spatulas the proper care they need, you only need one thing: food-grade mineral oil.

By applying mineral oil to your wooden kitchen items somewhere between once a month and once a year (depending on how often they’re used), you’ll keep your boards and spatulas from drying out, splitting or warping. Just make sure the oil you use is food grade so that it won’t go rancid.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Clean your wooden cutting board or utensil. You can use dish soap and water and rinse it off, or coarse salt and half a lemon (or some white vinegar) and wipe it clean. Lemon is especially great at eliminating any odors that might be lingering in the wood. Once clean, let the board dry.
  2. Apply the oil. Use your hand or a rag to apply the oil evenly across the wood’s surface. Let it soak in overnight.
  3. Wipe off the excess. Once the wood has absorbed what it can, use a rag to wipe away any remaining oil. The wood should not feel damp or sticky.

If your wooden board or utensil is brand new, repeat this process 3-5 times before putting it into regular rotation.

If you want to ramp up your kitchen tools TLC even more, you could try a wood butter, conditioner or cream instead of plain mineral oil — these use a little bit of wax to help lock the oil’s moisture inside the wood. Check out A Piece of Rainbow for an all natural DIY recipe as well as some store-bought recommendations. But if you just want to stick to the basics, you can’t go wrong with food-grade mineral oil.