Living lightly is about making choices. But as an Aug. 26 Star Press guest columnist explained, it’s sometimes hard to know the “right” choice to make when it comes to recycling, especially plastics. Many materials are recyclable but aren’t recycled, and other plastics simply can’t be recycled in East Central Indiana.
The other major recycling choice that needs to be considered, however, is what to purchase. Do the items you buy contain recycled content? The answer to this question is all about creating a “circular economy.”
Let’s say you purchase an item and recycle the packaging. That material can often be reprocessed into new packaging and purchased by another consumer. Ideally this process is repeated over and over. In this circular economy, the consumption of raw materials is reduced, as is the disposal of materials in landfills.
This cycle can vary: Sometimes the package is recycled by the consumer, then manufactured into a new product, which is in turn purchased by another consumer. The critical link in this scenario is that the second product must also be recycled, remanufactured and re-purchased for the circular economy to continue. If not, then the circular economy is cut short and the benefits of recycling are reduced.
The circular economy for aluminum cans and corrugated shipping boxes is well established. It is likely that up to 100% of the paper fiber in the corrugated shipping box you receive is made from recycled fiber. Similarly, the aluminum can holding your favorite beverage may contain up to 70% recycled aluminum.
Manufacturers, policy-makers and interest groups are working together to design and manufacture more products that can be recycled and that will support the circular economy, but there’s plenty that we, as consumers, can do right now.
Consider patio furniture made from recycled plastics, roof shingles made from recycled tires and plastic, wall decorations made from old woolen sweaters and furniture made from wood salvaged from an old house or barn.
Household paper products, like napkins, paper towels and bath tissue, can be made of mostly recycled paper. And while disposable plates and cups are rarely a good idea, if you absolutely need them, companies like Eco-Products sell plates made of sugarcane waste and cups partially made of recycled paper.
Plastics are a bit more complicated. Some plastic water bottles, milk jugs, 2-liter bottles, detergent bottles (#1 and #2 plastics), etc., are remade into bottles. They can also be made into outdoor furniture, deck material, fencing, carpet, roofing and other products.
Do a little research to find products that support the circular economy. Dig into product websites and read labels. Find out if renewable energy or recycled water is used in the manufacturing process. Find out what recycled content, if any, is in the product you’re buying.
The good news is that many retailers in East Central Indiana sell these kinds of products!
Some local home improvement stores sell ChoiceDek, Trex and other decking materials made almost entirely of recycled plastic and wood fiber waste. When you buy new carpet, ask if the store sells carpet made of 100% recycled soda bottles (PET), like Mohawk’s EverStrand, and also ask if your old carpet will be sent to a carpet recycling plant, like Kruse Carpet Recycling, in Indianapolis. Probably the best known recycled/recyclable carpet product is Flor carpet squares, which you’d need to have shipped to your home.
If you’re reroofing your house, look for materials made from recycled content. Euroshield and EcoStar both make shingles that are 80% or higher recycled rubber and plastic, and they look just like slate. For asphalt shingles, Malarkey is one company that makes shingles with some recycled content. All of these products are available to ECI residents.
You should also ask if your old shingles or other roofing materials will be recycled. Go to www.shinglerecycling.org to find shingle recyclers in Indiana that will make your old asphalt shingles into paving material. Roofers that recycle shingles are hard to find in ECI, so you may need to go to Indianapolis, for a company like Elbert Roofing.
For home paper products that are made of recycled content, the internet is filled with options, and a few local stores carry paper towels and bath tissue that have significant recycled content. At the Downtown Farm Stand, for instance, you can buy Seventh Generation bath tissue, paper towels and other products.
In addition to buying products made of recycled content, you can also come up with your own creative ways of incorporating repurposed materials into home remodeling and decorating projects. Hobbies and home and yard decorating projects offer great opportunities to reuse materials. Pinterest is one of many websites that offer ideas for repurposing materials, and the Living Lightly Fair will give you some creative ideas, too.
It can be tricky to figure out the “right” thing to do, but the Living Lightly Fair is here to inform and support your choices! To learn more about living sustainably in East Central Indiana, come to the 2018 Living Lightly Fair at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on Sept. 29 from 9 am to 4 pm. Learn more at www.livinglightlyfair.org.
This article, which appeared in the Muncie Star Press on Sept. 7, 2018, was written by Pam Kirklin and Barb Stedman. Pam is Environmental Resource Coordinator at Marion Utilities and Vendor Coordinator for the 2018 Living Lightly Fair. Barb is Ball State’s Director of National & International Scholarships and President of Living Lightly.