Berkeley has moved one step closer to our goal of Zero Waste by 2020! Berkeley residents can now recycle more plastic containers in their blue curbside carts. In addition to plastic bottles, the Ecology Center’s curbside recycling program will now collect clean food storage containers, dairy tubs (like yogurt), plastic cups, and trays.
There are still plastic items that should not go in to the blue curbside recycling carts like styrofoam, plastic bags or wrap, compostable plastics, utensils, straws, and coffee lids. Residents can drop off oversized plastic objects such as buckets, lawn furniture, and crates at the Berkeley Recycling Center on the corner of Gilman and 2nd Street.
Increased plastics recycling will help diminish the amount of plastic that is landfilled. However, it will not solve all the environmental and health problems associated with plastic. Plastics make up a substantial part of the municipal solid waste stream, and Americans are buying more plastic than ever. In the US, only 8 percent of plastic discards get recycled, and the plastics industry rarely uses recycled plastics in the vast majority of their product packaging.
The recycling arrows stamped on plastic products lead many people to believe that all plastic products are recyclable and being recycled, but that’s not the case. “One thing that has set Berkeley apart has been our willingness to tell it like it is. We’re not going to lead you to believe that certain plastics are being recycled when a recycling market for those items doesn’t actually exist,” says Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque. “We didn’t want to collect other kinds of plastics until we could verify that they would indeed be recycled and not just landfilled, discarded, or incinerated.”
New environmental rules enforced by Chinese customs have restricted the flow of the West’s recyclables into China. Berkeley remains vigilant about only collecting plastics that have viable markets and producing clean, high quality materials for recycling.
Plastics continue to pollute our oceans and waterways, and are associated with a growing variety of health hazards. For these reasons, the Ecology Center continues to urge Berkeley residents to reduce their overall use of plastics. The Ecology Center website features two useful fact sheets to help residents adopt alternative practices: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Eliminate Plastic and Storing Fruits and Vegetables. The Ecology Center Store stocks products to get the plastic out of your kitchen, bath, and toy box, plus books such as Plastic-Free by local author Beth Terry.