March 31, 2023 By Christin Eigenmann, Hingham Net Zero
Recycling? Separating glass, cardboard, paper, aluminum? Mostly straight forward. But all these different plastic items? There are nice recycling symbols with numbers on each of these. But not each community or waste hauler accepts the same numbers. Very confusing! According to a report from Greenpeace on the state of plastic recycling in the U.S., the amount of plastic which is turned into new things has fallen to new lows of around 5%. This is a very low percentage! I might not be the only one struggling. The problem with plastic is, that it is cheap to produce but expensive to collect and sort. There are thousands of different types of plastic, and none of them can be melted down together. Very low recycling rates mean most of the plastic is headed to landfills, the incinerator or becomes litter on land or in the ocean.
There is no easy or simple way to break down plastic either. So, it lingers in our environment ‘forever’. Animals mistake it for food or get entangled. And it is leading us to consume bits of micro-plastics every day, week, month, and year. You likely consume the rough equivalent of a credit card’s weight of plastic every single week, according to a World Wildlife Fund study.
Plastic wrappers, containers, coffee cups, straws, or bottles? Very convenient for our busy lifestyles. But all part of the nearly 50% of plastic items that are produced for single-use purposes only. We use them only once, for a short period of time, then we throw them away.
Recycling plastic? Not quite working. But what if we stopped using so much plastic in the first place? What if we remembered the other 2 ‘R’s, the Reduce & Reuse? And what if the reduce part was made easier for us because we didn’t even get the option to buy or use plastic packaged items? Hingham’s town-chartered Cleaner Greener Hingham Committee has worked on a new by-law which will limit the sale of single-use water bottles” promote the use of reusable bottles. To reduce local land & marine pollution, to reduce waste, to protect the town’s unique natural beauty & irreplaceable natural resources & to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Town of Hingham.
Will I be thirsty after the next school event? Certainly. Will I grab one of these little plastic water bottles? Hopefully not. I will do my best to bring my reusable water bottle or there will be a water cooler or fountain with compostable cups for everyone to use. Because like 24 Commonwealth communities before us, Hingham will have voted in favor of the new by-law at Spring Town Meeting on April 24, 2023.
-Christin Eigenmann, Hingham Net Zero