Commentary

Ridding Our Lives of Forbidden Plastics

Posted by tbaker |

Photo By Terrah Baker
The about 36,000 lbs. — 36 bails at 1,000 lbs. each — of plastics three through seven the city is storing until a legitimate market can be found.

By Terrah Baker

At the end of the week when I bag my overflowing stacks of recycling to haul to Ozark Natural Foods recycling drop off, there’s one bag that’s always bigger than the rest — the dreaded plastics #3 through #7. They’re the reason I drop off in the first place, as Fayetteville hasn’t, in the past, picked them up curbside. But now, we recyclers will have an even tougher time with our waste reduction.

As of last week, the Fayetteville Solid Waste and Recycling department announced the temporary suspension of their #3 – #7 plastics recycling. This comes after a long battle to meet standards of a city ordinance that requires disclosure and acceptance of where the 36,000 pounds of stored plastics are being sold.

What will they do with their stockpile of plastics that currently have no viable domestic use? Not send it to China or to be used as fuel thanks to the wish of Fayetteville City Council members and due to the ordinance mentioned above.

“The only markets identified were for incineration — which the Council directed us not to pursue — and overseas markets, which can not meet our accountability requirements,” said Brian Pugh, Waste Reduction Coordinator for the city.

Right now, Pugh said he’s trying to have Waste Management Inc. — one of the world’s largest recyclers — take it away, but even they’re having problems.

“It says a lot when the world’s largest recycler can’t find a market for [the plastics],” Pugh said.

So, now it’s left to Fayetteville residents to decide what to do with our own unwanted, space consuming, random and oddly shaped, toxic (scientifically, not figuratively) and now forbidden plastics.

This is where I — and many others as statistics and economic demand shows — fall short. To rid my life of these materials, I’d have to quit buying certain yogurts, breads, frozen meals, pizza and a multitude of other items that have plastic as a part of the wrapping. In other words, we’d have to change our entire lives and eating habits to be #3 – #7 plastic free.

While I think changing our eating habits to include no plastic wrapping is an amazing thought, I know it’s near impossible in the fast-paced, capitalist society we call home. So here’s my solution: Just try.

Start thinking of ways to REUSE those old plastic items (i.e., bread bags as vegetable bags at the grocery store, or even lunch bags for sandwiches), REDUCE the plastic you buy by choosing options with less plastic packaging, and CONTACT your favorite brands to tell them there are other options and plastics #3 – #7 aren’t the way to go.

Although the Fayetteville City Council said they will again recycle plastics #3 – #7 when they can meet the standards of the ordinance, let’s try to rid ourselves and our community of this forbidden plastic so our kids don’t have to deal with the mess we have made while eating all those nicely wrapped grocery items.

If you have any questions, contact Brian Pugh at the solid waste division. His contact information is 479-718-7685 or email bpugh@ci.fayetteville.ar.us

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