BELFAST—Think you’re being a good consumer by dropping your plastic recycling off at a Transfer Station each week? Well, don’t wipe your hands and be on your merry way, yet.
A Pew Charitable Trust study, “Breaking The Plastic Wave” revealed that in 2016, 11 million metric tons of plastic leaked into the ocean with 45 percent of those leakages coming from rural areas, such as our own communities in Maine.
In the last 60 years, consumers have been sold a lie that the plastic they buy will be recycled. The truth is less than 10 percent of what we use and turn in for recycling is actually recycled—the majority is incinerated or stuffed right back in landfills. According to an NPR and PBS Frontline investigative report, “How Big Oil Misled The Public in Believing that Plastic Would Be Recycled,” the nation’s largest gas and oil industries were aware that the majority of the plastic they made was not going to be recycled, but instead, thrown away.
Creating new plastic today is actually cheaper than recycling it. And big oil firms found more incentive to invest heavily in making virgin or new plastic, rather than the more expensive option of recycling it. If we care about this as consumers, it’s time to wean dependence from buying single-use plastics.
The Green Store in Belfast, owned by Ellie Daniels, has always led the movement for organic and eco-friendly products. In late March, the store introduced a new Common Good bulk liquid cleaning products system in the back of the store. Similar to a food co-op’s system of dispensing staple items from bulk bins, The Green Store encourages shoppers to bring in their own containers and dispense as much liquid into them as they need.
“It’s amazing how much plastic we throw away in common products like shampoo or even the toothbrushes we use, but particularly I was interested in finding soaps and detergents that people could dispense themselves and refill in their own containers,” she said.
When it comes to the single-use plastic dish, body wash, and laundry detergent bottles, Daniels was concerned with mitigating our consumer impact on the environment.
“Especially since COVID-19, we haven’t been able to ship our recycling to overseas recycling centers,” said Daniels. “I know public radio did recently did an expose that how much we thought was being shipped to a recycling center, was, in fact, going straight into the ocean.”
Daniels is referring to a documentary called Plastic Wars, an investigation and report NPR and PBS did on the lies told by the oil and plastic industries—that single-use plastic would be recycled. The industries promoted that concept, without actually following through with it, because they knew it would appeal to eco-conscious consumers and would ultimately sell more plastic.
The Green Store currently offers hand soap, laundry detergent, and all-purpose soaps in unscented, lavender, or tea tree with a cost of .45 to .50 cents per fluid liter.
“The scented soaps are essential oils, not perfumed oils and tea tree is especially good for cleaning bathrooms in particular because it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial,” said Daniels.
Shoppers are encouraged to re-use their own containers and The Green Store sells special pump adapter lids for glass mason jars. Of course, if the shopper wants his or her laundry area to be Instagram-worthy, there are also snazzy glass bottles to go with it.
For more information visit: The Green Store
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org