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Is there the technology to make all plastics and other material used for packaging either recyclable or compostable?  If so,  should governments not help manufacturers to find a way to use these products and make laws that they have to use them by a certain date?

I know that it is expensive to actually recycle everything that is put out to be recycled.  How can this situation be improved?

I just opened a package of meat.  It came in a compostable tray but it was wrapped in plastic.  I want my meat wrapped in plastic for obvious reasons but that plastic had to be put in the garbage/landfill.  What can be done about meat?  (Other than everyone becoming vegetarian.)

 

 

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It should be possible.  I already use most of my amazon boxes to block garden weeds.  They already make compostable bags so it could be used to wrap meat.  I'm sure there are details to work out, but it seems doable to me.  They already have those dissolvable packing peanuts.  If they made manufacturers responsible for the  cost of recycling their own packaging, they would definitely figure it out. 

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No, there are plastics that are needed that still aren’t recycling processes for.  You could in theory require some sort of permit process for those plastics, like allow them fir medical products, scientific research, as well as other fields deemed necessary, and ban them for consumer single uses.  But it would be tough to get through congress.

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1 hour ago, Teaching3bears said:

I just opened a package of meat.  It came in a compostable tray but it was wrapped in plastic.  I want my meat wrapped in plastic for obvious reasons but that plastic had to be put in the garbage/landfill.  What can be done about meat?  (Other than everyone becoming vegetarian.)

Lab-grown meat is going to be hitting the stores in the near future. My guess is that those companies will be much more innovative with their packaging than the existing meat industry.

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4 minutes ago, Selkie said:

Lab-grown meat is going to be hitting the stores in the near future. My guess is that those companies will be much more innovative with their packaging than the existing meat industry.

Manufactured meat isn't more environmentally friendly. It is a highly processed product 

Edited by Melissa in Australia
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Decades ago, I worked for a company that was working on uses for plastics that could not be chemically broken down.  They developed products that were made out of small pieces of such plastics.  I'm sure development continues in some way or other.  I would also assume that by now, technology has been developed to break plastics down into more useful building blocks.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

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25 minutes ago, Melissa in Australia said:

Manufactured meat isn't more environmentally friendly. It is a highly processed product 

That is just speculation at this point. There are 50+ companies working on it and no one knows yet what the environmental impact will actually be.

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As I understand it, 99% of the things we consume could have eco-friendly packaging of various sorts. It's the cost that's hurting our chances.

My kid thought about going into packaging design. It's a growing field and it's really tied to sustainability.

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2 hours ago, KungFuPanda said:

It should be possible.  I already use most of my amazon boxes to block garden weeds.  They already make compostable bags so it could be used to wrap meat.  I'm sure there are details to work out, but it seems doable to me.  They already have those dissolvable packing peanuts.  If they made manufacturers responsible for the  cost of recycling their own packaging, they would definitely figure it out. 

Not to high jack the discussion, but how do you use the boxes to block weeds?  Our recycle bin is always full of them and I have so many weeds in lots of flower beds.

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7 minutes ago, athena1277 said:

Not to high jack the discussion, but how do you use the boxes to block weeds?  Our recycle bin is always full of them and I have so many weeds in lots of flower beds.

I mostly use them in paths and put wood chips on top of them.  My community garden plot has free wood chips, so it costs me nothing but effort to put down boxes and top them with chips.  Eventually when boxes and chips break down to soil I'll rake it into the beds and start the process all over again. 

At home I don't have an endless supply of free wood ships.  I shred the boxes and use them as bedding for my worm bins.  Sometimes I use shredded cardboard as mulch on flower beds.  (You still have to weed before you do this, and some weeds will poke through, but it does help control them.) I usually top it with leaves or mulch because the cardboard's not cute, but it helps me cover more space with less commercial mulch.  Yes, I'm saying that a sturdy paper shredder is an essential garden tool. 😆 I try to get every box out there into a garden.  When I build new raised beds, my first layer is always cardboard, then dried out sticks and limbs, and then soil.

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One way to do this, is to require packaging manufactures  to participate in or support the recycling process. That way it encourages them to use products that can be recycled. Overseas manufacturing, should have fees to support local recycling of ALL the materials in the package they sell. This should not include sending the plastic overseas for recycling. 

A simple example is this: rigid plastic caps are made of a plastic that is desirable in the recycling world. But, in most local recycle centers, they do not want caps in the recycle bins because they jam the sorting equipment.  Soft plastic lids are often the same plastic as the container but again....they aren't wanted due to the sorting equipment (not the plastic). In our area we can put batteries in a plastic bag and put on top of the bins.  Why can't we do this with caps/lids? 

If certain types of products can't be recycled and collected curbside locally (like Styrofoam) they any product that uses Styrofoam should have a fee attached to make that a viable option. 

Consumers will only force change, if the consumer is seeing the costs laid out.  If I buy a printer and there is a $10 surcharge attached due to packaging.....I may look at another brand, so see if I can pay less. 

I have heard that some countries have made laws saying all disposable food containers must be recyclable/compostable.  Why can't we do this in the USA? 

 

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46 minutes ago, City Mouse said:

I cant answer your question about plastics, but we by local meat that is wrapped in paper rather than plastic. 

Yes, this was what I was going to suggest: shop at a local farm where they butcher (or send out to be butchered) their own animals instead of buying meat in a supermarket. The meat will likely be healthier to consume and better for the environment too.

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38 minutes ago, bibiche said:

Yes, this was what I was going to suggest: shop at a local farm where they butcher (or send out to be butchered) their own animals instead of buying meat in a supermarket. The meat will likely be healthier to consume and better for the environment too.

Most farmers here will not sell individual packages, but only entire or halved animals. Which doesn't work for folks who are mindful of their meat consumption. 

And this isn't a solution on a societal scale... every family driving into the country to the farm and then storing their half cow in an extra freezer in their home...

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1 minute ago, regentrude said:

Most farmers here will not sell individual packages, but only entire or halved animals. Which doesn't work for folks who are mindful of their meat consumption. 

And this isn't a solution on a societal scale... every family driving into the country to the farm and then storing their half cow in an extra freezer in their home...

Farms and butchers here do sell small cuts (wrapped in paper!). I don’t buy them myself as I am vegetarian. 😉 

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5 hours ago, Teaching3bears said:

Is there the technology to make all plastics and other material used for packaging either recyclable or compostable?  If so,  should governments not help manufacturers to find a way to use these products and make laws that they have to use them by a certain date?

I know that it is expensive to actually recycle everything that is put out to be recycled.  How can this situation be improved?

I just opened a package of meat.  It came in a compostable tray but it was wrapped in plastic.  I want my meat wrapped in plastic for obvious reasons but that plastic had to be put in the garbage/landfill.  What can be done about meat?  (Other than everyone becoming vegetarian.)

The first question should not be can it be recyclable.

The first question should always be can it be done away with entirely? So much packaging is more presentation than necessity. REDUCE does the most good.

The second question should be can it be repurposed? Can the packaging be turned in for reuse (like milk bottles back in the day for example) for the same purpose or for another purpose? REUSE is second best.

The third and last option would be recyclable or biodegradable. And the answer is yes.  Honestly we have had plastics for only approx 100 years. And grocery stores and such have been around for much longer.  There’s really no reason your meat couldn’t be wrapped in butcher paper for example.

Some other considerations:

It doesn’t matter if it’s recyclable or degradable if there’s no profit to doing it. Which there isn’t. And the smaller bits of plastic are the least profitable, so in an additionally messed up factor, the bigger the packaging, the more likely it will actually be recycled. There’s a reason so much plastic is floating in the ocean and that China stopped taking it.  Frankly, I think until there is a system that financially rewards using less to begin with, there will never be profit in recycling. As less is generated, the need to recycle will be more necessary and it will seem too wasteful to just throw it away. 

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It is my understanding that it is not simply the $ cost of recycling some materials that is a barrier but also the environmental costs of recycling some matierals that make recycling some materials impractical.  For example, if something can be recylced but it has to be taken to a plant 2000 miles away to recycle, and a lot of water and energy must be used in the recycling process, the recylcing process is not necessarily environmentally friendly.  

If I get meat at the counter at my local grocery store--i.e. go to the butcher and say I would like 2 pounds of ground meat or 3 chicken breasts--it is wrapped in butcher paper rather than in a styrofoam tray with plastic film. that is in the refigerated meat area. (But, the butcher paper cannot be put in my local paper recycling.)

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9 hours ago, regentrude said:

Most farmers here will not sell individual packages, but only entire or halved animals. Which doesn't work for folks who are mindful of their meat consumption. 

And this isn't a solution on a societal scale... every family driving into the country to the farm and then storing their half cow in an extra freezer in their home...

I think the point is that meat doesn’t require plastic packaging, as shown by smaller operations.   
I don’t think independent butchers are necessarily rural things. My mom used to use a butcher shop near our grocery store in the commercial area outside our suburb. 
 

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15 hours ago, Teaching3bears said:

Is there the technology to make all plastics and other material used for packaging either recyclable or compostable?  If so,  should governments not help manufacturers to find a way to use these products and make laws that they have to use them by a certain date?

I know that it is expensive to actually recycle everything that is put out to be recycled.  How can this situation be improved?

I just opened a package of meat.  It came in a compostable tray but it was wrapped in plastic.  I want my meat wrapped in plastic for obvious reasons but that plastic had to be put in the garbage/landfill.  What can be done about meat?  (Other than everyone becoming vegetarian.)

 

 

Over here we have a lot of our garbage going into energy producing (specifically heating and cooling) = that is plastics and everything else.  It is piped into a giant federal facility to heat and cool.

 

Also, in the ocean there is plastic eating bacteria in the Sargasso Sea and presumably other places too.

 

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14 hours ago, Melissa in Australia said:

Manufactured meat isn't more environmentally friendly. It is a highly processed product 

I think the target consumers are people like me that really like meat, do better eating it, but also really like animals and hate killing them. More animal welfare folks than environmental folks. 

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I find that the most environmentally friendly option is not always obvious at first.  I was just using DD's washing machine--the express cycle that takes only 30 minutes and washes at 30 degrees celsius uses more energy and water than they cycle that takes 3 hours and washes at 40 degrees celsius.  That is opposite of what I would have though if I had not looked at the details.  

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The first part of your question is complicated.  For the past 50 years, the onus of recycling has been squarely on the consumer.  Maine is changing that and I hope other states follow suit: Maine Becomes First State That Will Make Businesses Pay For Packaging Waste.

So when companies have to deal with the problem they're causing, they're more likely to change it instead of continuing their same bad habits.  Is there compostable plastic?  Yes.  Absolutely.  It's usually made from corn and it breaks down - not as fast as nonprocessed material, but it does break down.

 

I believe companies should have to pay into recycling the more packaging they expect plants to process or go into landfills.  This shouldn't be on the consumer to tackle the issue and have their taxes raised because of business incompetence.  Yeah, some of the cost will trickle down to the consumer, but it will also improve the waste as well (and a lot of plastic isn't recyclable, really, because of how hard it is to process).

 

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1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

I find that the most environmentally friendly option is not always obvious at first.  I was just using DD's washing machine--the express cycle that takes only 30 minutes and washes at 30 degrees celsius uses more energy and water than they cycle that takes 3 hours and washes at 40 degrees celsius.  That is opposite of what I would have though if I had not looked at the details.  

Well that’s (welcome) news to me!

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48 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

The first part of your question is complicated.  For the past 50 years, the onus of recycling has been squarely on the consumer.  Maine is changing that and I hope other states follow suit: Maine Becomes First State That Will Make Businesses Pay For Packaging Waste.

So when companies have to deal with the problem they're causing, they're more likely to change it instead of continuing their same bad habits.  Is there compostable plastic?  Yes.  Absolutely.  It's usually made from corn and it breaks down - not as fast as nonprocessed material, but it does break down.

 

I believe companies should have to pay into recycling the more packaging they expect plants to process or go into landfills.  This shouldn't be on the consumer to tackle the issue and have their taxes raised because of business incompetence.  Yeah, some of the cost will trickle down to the consumer, but it will also improve the waste as well (and a lot of plastic isn't recyclable, really, because of how hard it is to process).

 

Are there any details of how this will work in Maine?  For example, will Procter and Gamble have to pay a fee based upon each plastic bottle of laundry detergent and each cardboard packaged tube of toothpaste sold in Maine?  What if a Maine resident purchases something in New Hampshire?  I am having trouble finding anything about how this is really going to work.

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1 minute ago, Bootsie said:

Are there any details of how this will work in Maine?  For example, will Procter and Gamble have to pay a fee based upon each plastic bottle of laundry detergent and each cardboard packaged tube of toothpaste sold in Maine?  What if a Maine resident purchases something in New Hampshire?  I am having trouble finding anything about how this is really going to work.

I can't find any details in action yet, but it looks like they will be assessed disposal fees based on how much is shipped into Maine.  The secondary link inside the first gives a little bit more insight as well as how it has worked in Canada and other places, but still nothing fully concrete.  It will have to be worked out, probably.

Unrelated, but...

We went to Vermont last week for a getaway.  The city of Burlington has got it going on when it comes to shifting to a more carbon-neutral society.  There were community gardens, a huge emphasis on farm-to-table, easy to use bike lanes that forced cars to not only accept bikes on the road, but consider leaving the car at home, walkable streets.. One thing dh and I noticed was that most local products we saw were packaged in recyclable or compostable containers.   The trash was ALWAYS divided into compost, recycle, trash, and reusable.  Vegan/vegetarian food was the norm (I should show you the picture of my bar meal!)  It was absolutely amazing.

We live in a similar tourist destination but without the emphasis on sustainable environments.  It really makes a difference.  I think between community consciousness and forcing businesses to do the right thing, there would be a better place for all of us.  BUT, someone has to force companies.  I'm interested to see how Maine is going to play out, and if Vermont ends up enacting a similar thing, then it'll start to gain traction across the U.S. - probably Washington or CA next. 

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