The Most Commonly Littered Item? Cigarette Butts — And They’re Plastic

More cigarettes are littered than plastic bags, straws, bottles, wrappers or takeout packaging. They’re the most common type of litter on the planet. Why? Because many people find it socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts on the ground.

The Ocean Conservancy has been facilitating beach clean-ups since 1986. In the past 30+ years, they have collected over 60 million cigarette filters, making them the most common piece of ocean litter. In 2017 alone, cleanup volunteers collected 2.4 million butts.

It’s estimated that 5.6 trillion cigarettes are consumed each year, and as many as two-thirds of the filters are littered.

No matter how you want to count it, that’s a pretty big problem. And what makes it even worse is that they’re made from plastic. For a long time, people have believed that cigarette filters are made of paper and that they biodegrade naturally, but that isn’t true.

According to NBC News, 90% of cigarettes contain a plastic-based filter. Plastic pollution is dangerous because of how it breaks down — or rather, how it doesn’t break down. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades. So it breaks down into smaller pieces with the help of heat and sunlight, but it never stops existing as plastic. Unlike other organic materials that can be eaten and digested and recomposed, plastic just stays plastic.

When cigarette filters break down and are eaten by wildlife, the plastic fibers accumulate in the bodies of the animals and work their way up the food chain. Before the filters begin breaking down, they release all the chemicals they absorbed from the cigarette smoke, including nicotine, arsenic and lead.

Many of these cigarette filters end up in the ocean. Some are tossed directly by beachgoers. Others are washed from sidewalks and street corners into gutters, storm drains, local waterways, and they make their way into the ocean from there.

If you smoke, be careful to dispose of your butts in ashtrays and trash cans, so that they don’t end up polluting our environment and endangering wildlife.

Community Fridges Fight Food Waste

In the United Kingdom, supermarkets, restaurants and residents have begun putting excess food into public refrigerators to share it with the community.

Sharing unwanted or unneeded food can prevent food waste and help feed the hungry. Watch this video to learn more about The People’s Fridge:

Toss Those Plastic Easter Eggs

An Easter egg hunt with colorful plastic eggs is a spring tradition, but you may want to consider an eco-friendly update this year. Plastic eggs are not recyclable, and some have been shown to contain lead paint and the harmful chemical BPA.

If you need to buy new eggs this year, look for ones labeled “BPA-Free.” An even safer option are the wooden, ceramic and cloth eggs available online and at craft stores. Many of these eggs have hollow centers so you can still fill them with treats for your kids. Whichever eggs you choose for your egg hunt, make sure they all get collected to avoid littering.

If you’re retiring your plastic eggs this year, either donate them or use them to make decorations such as Easter centerpieces and wreaths. Check out this article from Pop Sugar for more ideas. Otherwise, make sure they go in the trash.

Green Your Grocery Trip With Reusable Produce Bags

Springtime is here, and the markets are about to become jam-packed with fresh fruits and veggies. Now is the perfect time to stock up on reusable produce bags!

We all know it’s better to use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic ones, but what about plastic produce bags? Reusable produce bags are a simple and affordable way to avoid single-use plastic. They’re easy to find online, and they can also be found at certain grocery stores and home goods stores. Bags made from cotton or other natural fibers are best. Simply toss them in the wash with other linens when they get dirty.

Pro tip: Once you have reusable produce bags, stash a few of them inside one of your reusable shopping bags, and keep them in your car at all times so that you don’t forget to bring them to the store!

If you’re still using plastic produce bags, you can recycle these with plastic bags. They need to be empty and dry, so give them a good shake to get any last crumbs out. If they need to be rinsed, you can prop them in your dish rack to dry. (Paper towel holders work really well, too!)

Are You ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’? Here’s How to Do It the Green Way

Since the Marie Kondo Netflix special ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’ was released on January 1, tidying up has become a nationwide craze. Although the Japanese decluttering expert has been on and off the New York Times bestseller list since her first U.S. book was published in 2014, her Instagram following has increased by nearly 2 million since her Netflix debut. In the same timeframe, resale stores around the country are claiming that their donation piles have reached record levels. Clearly, her ideas are catching on.

If you are one of many Americans with too much “stuff,” it’s not a bad idea to downsize. However, most “stuff” takes a long time to break down once it’s in the landfill, and when it comes to plastic, it might never break down. If you decide to use the KonMari method to declutter, follow these tips to make sure as little ends up in the landfill as possible.

1. Don’t toss everything into a garbage bag. Not everything you’re getting rid of is trash. If someone would still pay money for it, sell it. If someone would still use it, donate it. If the item needs fixing, repair it. And if the material is recyclable, recycle it! Only toss what truly cannot be reused or recycled.

2. Donate only what you would give to a friend. Donating is a great way to extend the life of your belongings! Find a list of our local donation locations here. However, most resale organizations — charity or not — end up tossing the items they can’t sell. So don’t donate belongings you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to one of your friends. If you have items that you think someone would use, but no one would pay money for them (such as partially used cleaning products), try giving them away for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Otherwise, find a way to recycle them instead.

3. Repair items that need it, or give them to someone who will. Sure, repairing something is a pain, whether it’s your toilet or a boot with a broken zipper. On the flip side, repairing something extends its life and reduces how much you need to buy. If you have something that you can’t fix, try giving it away or selling it at a reduced price. Local sales apps are great for this, including OfferUp, Letgo, Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace. You can advertise that your item needs some TLC, and that way, someone who has the time and skills to repair it can find it.

4. Recycle or upcycle items that can’t be used again. If you no longer have a use for something, and you don’t think your friends would use it either, find out if you can recycle it. For example, textiles can’t be recycled curbside, but you can recycle them in other ways. Clothing companies ThredUp and For Days will both recycle your old clothes, and For Days will even give you up to $50 in store credit. If you’re feeling crafty, you could take all the T-shirts in your closet that don’t bring you joy and turn them into T-shirt yarn for crafting. Find more alternative recycling programs and reuse ideas by searching our Recycling Guide.

5. Buy less stuff! You’ll never need to Marie Kondo your home if you refuse to buy stuff you don’t need in the first place. One of the great lessons Kondo teaches is appreciation for our belongings. According to her philosophy, we should treat them well and thank them for their service every day. What’s not very appreciative? Sending a giant pile of garbage bags to the dump!

6. Buy secondhand. The recent surge in donations to secondhand stores has people asking: Will buying secondhand become as popular as donating? Or is the secondhand shop simply a short layover on the trip to the landfill? You can help by buying secondhand yourself! Not only will you be discouraging overproduction of new materials, you’ll be able to afford items of higher quality than you can afford to buy new. In other words, you can spend less cash on nicer things that will last longer.

Go ahead and Marie Kondo your home this spring! Just remember to donate carefully, recycle more, and buy less stuff in the future.

The Beginning of the End of Disposable Packaging?

What if disposable packaging became a thing of the past? That’s exactly what the company TerraCycle is trying to achieve with their new program called Loop.

Some of the world’s biggest companies, including Unilever, P&G and Häagen-Dazs, have signed on to test a waste-free model of packaging where the consumer never owns the packaging a product comes in — instead, the company does. So when you’re done with your shampoo or ice cream container, it goes straight back to the manufacturer to be refilled and sold again. It’s basically the old milkman model revived for the 21st century.

TerraCycle has worked with participating companies to design packages that can survive at least 100 refills, and look good on your shelf while doing it. These packages can either be delivered to — and picked up from — your doorstep, or sold in regular stores, where you can also drop off your empties.

This program is only available in New York City and Paris right now, but you can join the waitlist to request Loop in your area.

The Biggest Garbage Dump on Earth Is in the Ocean

Just because we try to keep trash on land doesn’t mean it stays there. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant collection of trash in the ocean — mostly made of plastic — with a larger surface area than any known landfill. Watch this video to learn more.

Daylight Saving Time: When You Change Your Clocks, Recycle the Batteries in Your Smoke Detector

recycle smoke detector batteries

March 10 is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, which means we have to move the clocks forward an hour. But Daylight Saving Time is also the perfect time to test your smoke detectors and change the batteries! When it comes to fire safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Here’s how to take care of your smoke detector:

  • Test it once a month.
  • Change its battery once a year.
  • Replace the smoke detector every 10 years.

When you change your batteries, remember to recycle your old ones.

Never throw batteries in the trash! Some batteries can explode if they happen to strike against other metal in your garbage, in a garbage truck, or on their way to a landfill. These explosions cause dangerous fires. Additionally, batteries contain dangerous metals and corrosive chemicals that can leach into the environment if they are not processed properly.

If you have a battery that is damaged — if it is swollen, leaking, corroded (you will see a powdery white substance) or showing burn marks — do one of the following: Place it in a clear plastic bag and take it to a hazardous waste facility, or contact a Call2Recycle drop-off site to see if it accepts damaged batteries. Damaged batteries are highly hazardous, so do not place a damaged battery in the trash for any reason.

Use traditional, single-use batteries in your smoke detectors. Why? These alkaline batteries can hold a charge for years when not in use, and their charge isn’t sapped very quickly. They are a better choice than rechargeable batteries for items that may sit unused for long periods of time, such as smoke detectors and emergency flashlights. If you wish to use rechargeable batteries anyway, make sure to choose ones that are labeled low-self discharge (LSD), and test your smoke detector manually once a month.

Recycle Leftover Paint? Yes You Can!

recycle paint

Leftover house paint taking up space in your garage, basement, laundry room or closet? Why not recycle it and get your storage space back!

PaintCare sets up drop-off locations where households and businesses can recycle leftover house paint, primer, stains and varnish for free. Most locations are at paint and hardware stores that take back leftover paint during regular business hours. Other locations include household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities, solid waste transfer stations, landfills, recycling centers and “re-use” stores (like those run by Habitat for Humanity).

This paint recycling program is funded by a small fee that you pay whenever you purchase paint in California, so please take advantage of what you have already paid for! Through this program, we are able to keep 94% percent of donated paint out of the landfill.

PaintCare locations take back all brands of house paint — even if it’s 20 years old! All locations accept up to five gallons per visit, and some will take much more. Paint containers should be five gallons in size or smaller and have original labels. Here is a full list of products that PaintCare accepts:

  • Interior and exterior architectural paints: latex, acrylic, water-based, alkyd, oil-based, enamel (including textured coatings)
  • Deck coatings, floor paints (including elastomeric)
  • Primers, sealers, undercoaters
  • Stains
  • Shellacs, lacquers, varnishes, urethanes (single component)
  • Waterproofing concrete/masonry/wood sealers and repellents (not tar or bitumen-based)
  • Metal coatings, rust preventatives
  • Field and lawn paints

Locations do not accept leaking, unlabeled or empty containers. They also do not accept aerosols (spray paint), art and craft paints, marine and auto paints, industrial coatings, or other related chemicals such as paint thinner, paint tints or caulking materials.

In addition to setting convenient drop-off locations where the public can get rid of unwanted paint, PaintCare also offers a free large volume pick-up service for households or businesses that have 200+ gallons of leftover paint.

Here are the PaintCare drop-off locations in Ukiah:

Ukiah HazMobile
3200 Taylor Drive | (707) 468-9710
Tuesday and Wednesday 8am – 2pm
Second Saturday of every month 8am – 2pm

Kelly-Moore
217 E Gobbi St | (707) 462-9158
Mon – Fri 6:30am – 6pm
Sat 7am – 4pm, Sun 10am – 2pm

To learn more about PaintCare, visit paintcare.org.

It’s Time to Ditch Your Plastic Wrap — Here’s Why

plastic wrap

There’s no doubt that plastic wrap — also known as Cling Wrap or Saran Wrap — is convenient. However, it’s super hard to reuse and impossible to recycle because it’s a complex plastic made with chemicals that are difficult to remove during the recycling process. So instead of trying to clean it or dry it, toss it in your trash.

But this also means that every time you use plastic wrap, you’re creating a piece of waste that will outlive us several times over. In fact, we don’t have proof that plastic will ever truly biodegrade. Rather, it will simply accumulate in our environment over time.

However, a bunch of plastic waste in a faraway future isn’t the only thing that’s concerning about plastic wrap. Plastic wrap may also be made from plastic #3, PVC, which contains materials that have been associated with serious health risks such as cancer and hormonal disorders.

So what can you use instead of plastic wrap? Reusable food containers, jars, beeswax wrap, silicone pouches and silicone stretch lids will all do the trick. It’s worth it to wash and reuse an item when it means you can keep harmful, non-recyclable materials out of the landfill.

If you can’t quite give up the plastic wrap habit, don’t let it touch food directly, or go into the microwave, where it is most likely to leach chemicals into your food.