Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 153 of our Green Year: Understanding Plastic Numbers

Throughout Our Green Year, we have endeavored to try and get rid of plastic from our lives. Plastic is everywhere it seems, and it can be very hard to eliminate it when even organic food is packed in plastic. During Our Green Year, we have stopped using plastic grocery bags, plastic vegetable bags, excess packaging that often includes plastics and even plastic milk jugs, which we replaced with glass milk jugs.

Since it can be very hard to completely eliminate plastics, it is very important to recycle and re-use what plastics you get. Each year, billions of plastic items are disposed of, but only a small portion of that is actually recycled. That is highly unfortunate because so much of it ends up in the environment, including the Pacific Garbage patch, which is a huge section of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California that carries massive amounts of plastic that is slowly broken down and eaten by fish and birds.

There are plastic numbers on most plastics, and this can give you a clear indication of what you can re-use and what you can recycle. Here are the numbers and what you can do with them:
  1. This number is on most water and pop bottles and some packaging. It is hard to de-contaminate, and cleaning can lead to the release of harmful chemicals, including some carcinogens. DO NOT REUSE, RECYCLE THIS.
  2. This number is on milk jugs, detergent jugs, oil bottles, plastic bags and toys. It is one of the safest forms of plastic and it can be re-used. Be sure to re-use this before you recycle it.
  3. This number is found in food wraps, food oil bottles, teething rings, pet toys and more. This does produce toxins from manufacturing to disposal. Do not use this in the microwave and DO NOT REUSE, RECYCLE IT.
  4. This number is found in shrink wraps, squeezable bottles and plastic bags. It is less toxic and can be re-used before being recycled.
  5. This number is in bottle tops, disposable diapers, carpeting, food bags, yogurt and margarine containers. It is one of the safest plastics and it can be re-used before being recycled.
  6. This number is on plastic cutlery and foam packaging. Chemicals can leach into food products. DO NOT USE AT ALL. FIND ALTERNATIVES.
  7. This number is used on layered and mixed plastics and cannot be re-used, so recycle when done with it.
Last night, Layla and I saw a great news story about a man in Wisconsin who has found a way to make his dairy farm completely recyclable. While the animals, 1,600 cows in total, make milk by eating organic feed, they also produce manure that John Vrieze turns into water. Vrieze was tired of disposing of thousands of dollars of manure in holding ponds every year, so he started using the Nu Way system that breaks down cow manure into re-usable elements. Now, everything produced by the cows on the farm is re-used. You may think that the water would be disgusting, but Vrieze says both he and the cows drink it. It is great to see how some farmers are finding that things can be green, especially when it has to do with one of the largest greenhouse gas producing industries in the world; cattle farming. You can view the story here from CNN (I don't know why there is no sound, but I can't find another video. You get the gist of it though):

A good blog friend of ours, Wandering Coyote, will feature odd searches through Google and other search engines that bring up her site. They can be pretty funny, so here are two searches two people did that brought up our site:
  • "5 pictures showing how a place has changed over the course of several years"
  • "is it a deer or cow foot print"
Also, speaking of news stories, here is a news story that appeared on Shaw TV in our area about Layla and I. Enjoy!