Living Green 365: Plastic

Having trouble viewing this message? View it as a webpage.
November 2011 header

Happy America Recycles Day! Plastic accounts for about 12% of the trash that Americans throw away each year and it’s growing fast.  Plastic recycling rates are far below rates for paper, glass, and aluminum. The good news is that several recycling haulers in the Twin Cities Metro Area have announced plans to collect additional types of plastic in their curbside programs beginning as early as January 2012. More information will be coming soon. In the meantime, here are some ideas and tips to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic.

Reduce, reuse…

Skip the bags. Bring your own reusable shopping bag and skip the bag altogether for small purchases. Use produce bags sparingly.
Select products with less packaging. Choose products packaged simply, with no packaging or with a single reusable or recyclable material.        
Buy in Bulk. Reduce plastic waste by choosing the largest container for items with a long shelf-life like vinegar, kitty litter, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.
Refill your bottle. Use products that can be refilled such as Restore’s laundry detergent, dish soap, and hand soap. Retail stores throughout Minnesota offer Restore refill stations.
Reuse your empty pill bottles. Donate clean, label-free pill bottles to your veterinary office or local humane society. This helps them save money and provide free samples and pet medication.
Donate discards to art programs. Check with your local school or scout program to see if they accept plastic items for art projects. Artstart, a creative materials reuse store in St. Paul, accepts many materials for art projects including unused plastic bottles and other plastic containers.
Buy products made out of recycled materials. Close the loop by looking for and purchasing products with labels that say they contain post-consumer material.
Note, reusing plastic bottles for drinking water is not recommended. It increases the likelihood of impurities such as bacteria and the potential leaching of plastic compounds into the water.

…and recycle

Learn what plastic are collected at your curb. Most recycling programs in Minnesota accept plastic bottles with a neck that are made from PET (#1) or HDPE (#2).  Other products are usually NOT collected by curbside recycling programs – even if they are marked with a #1 or a #2.  Check with your county or city recycling coordinator and/or your recycling hauler to find out what you can put in your recycling bin.

Plastic bottles
Abide by the recycling do’s and don’ts. Each recycling hauler has a list of plastics that they will collect as part of their service.  Do not put plastics in your recycling bin that are not on the list of accepted plastics. Placing other plastics into your recycling bin adds extra expenses to the program and does not lead to those items being recycled.
Watch for recycling changes.  Several recycling haulers in the Twin Cities Metro Area plan to collect additional types of plastic in their curbside program as early as January 2012. You’ll receive more information explaining the program changes soon.

Use drop-off plastic recycling programs. In addition to curbside recycling programs, there are local drop-off locations where you can bring other types of plastic to recycle. Check the program websites and/or call ahead for hours and further information.

  • The East Side Co-op in Minneapolis accepts all marked plastics #1-#7 on drop-off collection days.
  • The City of Coon Rapids Plastic Drop-off accepts #1-#7 plastics.
  • “Gimmie 5”at Whole Foods program accepts #5 plastic containers (i.e. yogurt tubs, select take-out containers).
  • “It’s in the bag” plastic bag and film recycling program is available in several communities throughout Minnesota. Accepted items include clean and dry (must be dry with all food residue removed) plastic film such as plastic shopping bags, bread bags, cereal bags, dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap, etc. Note: Zipper-type plastic bags are accepted in this program ONLY if the closing mechanism is removed.
  • Plastic bag recycling is available at several retailers including Cub Foods, Lund's and Byerly's, Target, and Kowalski’s Markets.

Plastic yugurt tubs

Additional Resources

Recycle More Minnesota: A website dedicated to helping Minnesotans increase recycling.
Rethink Recycling: Your go-to guide for waste and recycling in the Twin Cities.
Earth911: Enter your zip code to find recycling events and recycling centers in your area.

What do the recycling numbers mean?

Virtually all plastic packaging is marked with a triangular ‘”chasing arrows” symbol with a number #1 - #7 in the middle.

recycling symbol
This number is the resin identification code (RIC) and is usually found on the bottom of the container. This number only shows which broad category of plastic a product is made from. The number does not mean that a product is recyclable. Check with your county or city recycling coordinator and/or your recycling hauler to learn what plastics are accepted in your local program.

Most programs do not collect all types of plastic within a RIC – for example you can recycle plastic bottles marked with a #1 or a #2 but you cannot recycle take out containers marked with a #1 or a #2.  

Community events and resources

Join us for the webinar Powerful Messages in Unnatural Times - Why Storytelling is the "X" Factor in Harnessing Your Sustainability Efforts with Jeff Leinaweaver, Natural Step Associate and Founder of Global Zen. November 17th from 11:00am - noon (PT).

The 2011 Do it Green! Minnesota Green Gifts Fair provides green gift options and low impact ideas to celebrate the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's and everything in between. November 19, Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis).

Join botanist Scott Milburn for an outdoor winter botany class that includes in-depth identification and study of our winter hardy native plants. December 3 from 1:00pm - 3:00pm (Maplewood).

Clean Air, Climate, and Health: A free forum open to the public. Hear from polar explorer Will Steger, Minnesota's own eyewitness to global warming, presenting his vivid, firsthand account. Fresh Energy's J. Drake Hamilton will describe effective clean energy solutions. December 7th in Princeton and December 8th in Grand Rapids.

Quick links to other MPCA resources

Send questions or comments about living green to the address below.
Colleen Schoenecker and the Living Green Team