Address the Mess: Little Plastic

Invented around the end of the 1800s, plastics became an alternative material for things like billiard balls and hair combs, and now it’s impossible to imagine our world without it. It can fill a pillow or hold up a building; it’s probably one of the best and most game-changing inventions humankind has ever come up with.

Little Plastic is what I call the bits of plastic that can’t be processed by our waste management facilities.* This includes any plastic item smaller than your fist; plastic wrap and packaging (such as the stuff we use to cover food for storage, or the shrinkwrap on CDs), and plastic bags. I recently visited our Waste Management facility out by the airport, and one of my biggest takeaways was that plastic bags do not belong in the recycling bin (no matter how much we want them to!). Because of this, they are referred to as “low value” plastics.

Happily, there are some really cool alternatives to Little Plastic on the consumer market…


I replaced my food storage plastic wrap with a product called Bees Wrap several years ago (there are other brands available too such as Abeego and Bee Wild). It’s a reusable, washable, and eventually biodegradable food wrapper (it can last years!). I’ve also found a lot of videos and blogs online that teach you how to make your own if you’re looking to save some money, be crafty, and use up old scraps of cotton cloth (and ingredients including wax pellets, pine rosin, and jojoba oil).

I often go grocery shopping, forget my reusable shopping bags in the car, and think, “Oh well, I’ll just get a plastic shopping bag this one time.” But now that there are no garbage cans in my house, it motivates me to carry around a tiny bag in my purse (so many bags! But saves me a trip to the car?) – chico bags are nice because they often come with a tiny carabiner that can clip conveniently to anything.

Then there are companies like Renewlogy in Utah – a waste facility that is currently processing low value plastics like shopping bags and plastic wrap into diesel fuel. Boise has already been sending their low value plastics that way most of 2018. Sciencing our way into the future of circular consumerism!

We want to hear from you! What are your frustrations with “sustainable living”? Do you have alternative products and/or methods you especially endorse? Are there certain items you’d like us to address?

*If you have more specific questions about recycling (anything really, no question is too small or dumb or probing – “Can I recycle this T-shirt?” [nope, sorry, but you can donate it to a thrift store!] “What happens to the recycling after it gets sorted?” “What is recycling?”), you can directly email the Recycling Education & Outreach Coordinator for Central & Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho at [email protected]

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