Before You Pitch the Plastic: 5 Ideas for When You Can’t Recycle.

2015-Gimme-5-Bin-A580Sadly, not all cities have a plastic recycling program. If this is the case for you, and you can’t bear to toss those tubs and bottles in the trash, here are a few options:

  1. Choose Wisely: The best option by far! If you have two good brand choices and one’s packaged in cardboard, and one in plastic, pick the cardboard. I’m a big fan of voting with your dollars. If we all make a conscious effort to shop this way, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a bigger effort by companies to use more earth-friendly packaging.
  2. Get With the Program: There are a few great resources beyond your city that can help you recycle the unrecycleable. Gimme 5 Program offers recycling for #5 plastics if it isn’t offered in your area (search drop off locations here). Or, send your plastic in the mail to be recycled (but then there’s that whole fossil-fuel-for-shipping-vs.-throwing-away  debate). TerraCycle and Earth911 are some other great resources.
  3. Leftovers, good! Landfill, bad!: Of course using those pesky plastic tubs for food storage is a no-brainer. But think outside your home. Have someone over for dinner? Send them home with leftovers! Churches and community centers often offer free meals to the not-so-fortunate. Ask if they could use a few containers to offer take-home meals for the home bound.
  4. Bulk Up: Plastic cottage cheese containers and peanut butter jars are the perfect size for bulk food items like nuts, rolled oats and special flours (when you only need a cup or two for a recipe). You can designate them specifically for bulk by writing the container weight on them in permanent marker and set them aside so they’re ready for a grab-and-go on your way out the door. I wrote about bulk food here.
  5. Get Crafty: When it comes to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” reuse is my least favorite. I mean, you’re just postponing the inevitable landfill—UNLESS by reusing it, you eliminate the need to purchase something else that could end up in the landfill. Plastic tubs are great for planting (you can poke holes in the bottom and use the top for drainage plate). They’re perfect for storing kids’ craft supplies, small toys, bird food… And if you’re still up to your eyeballs, you can ask your local teachers, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, or after school programs if they have a need. If your neighborhood or community has a Facebook group, start there. Need more inspiration? Check out these ideas for plastic water bottles!

If you have a great idea for things you can’t recycle, leave it in the comments. And help me turn my plastic frown upside-down!

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