One word: “Plastics.” Turns out, there are two plastics: One that is recyclable and one that is not. Plastic food packaging in particular is a huge problem when it comes to recycling here in Norwalk and in our state.
I was unsure whether all food packaging is truly recyclable, so I contacted both Norwalk DPW (recycling list here) and Christopher Nelson at CT-DEEP (CT Department of Energy and Environment Protection). Mr. Nelson explained that plastic packaging that can be torn but does not stretch, is not recyclable in Connecticut. At all.
Most potato chips and other snacks are packaged in plastic bags that cannot be recycled. Even though grocery stores such as Stop & Shop, Shoprite, Whole Foods, Kohl’s, and Target have collection receptacles for products purchased at their stores), only #2 and #4 film and stretchable plastics are accepted.
From the Recycle CT website: “Clean and dry plastic bags and other types of film, such as [kitchen] bags, bubble wrap, newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, wrap from cases of toilet paper or paper towels can be brought back to participating retailers.”
Chip bags and other packaging that can be torn does NOT go in our blue curbside bins. It is not recyclable at all. This plastic often ends up in landfill and, worse, as part of the colossal plastic-islands in the oceans. At least the plastic film and packaging that stretches, collected at the above participating stores, can be converted by innovative manufacturers such as Trex Boards into building products.
My husband and I have taken on a personal challenge of no longer purchasing food items packaged in unrecyclable plastic. We purchase fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables which (magically, a wonder of nature) come in their own skin and require no packaging. We love the Field Goods service which delivers affordable fresh, local, healthy food items to Norwalk Library for pick-up.
Did you know that Whole Foods allows you to bring your own container to fill with dried food items from their bulk bins? Have the container weighed first at the customer service desk and the weight will be deducted from the sale. It’s a great example of reuse. I wish more stores offered ways to allow us to fill up a container again and again, reducing waste.
Please be mindful of store items—food and non-food products—packaged with materials that potentially end up cluttering the earth and seas. Help Mother Earth stay free of plastic. As the late comedian George Carlin said, “Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned in the first place—it wanted plastic for itself.” Of course, he was joking.
Join me in contacting food manufacturers and stores, recommending strongly that they find other ways to package their foods and products, ways that leave the earth better as we go along. Without Mother Earth, we have nothing.
Member, Episcopal Church in CT Climate and Environment Ministry Network