Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Picnics and Pollution: Being Mindful of Your Waste This Summer

Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District

When planning summer activities, it’s important to be mindful of the waste you are producing and where it goes. Picnics in particular are a popular summer pastime, but are often accompanied by a multitude of single-use products. These disposable products require minimal cleanup, but aren’t recyclable and generate unnecessary waste – and they can contribute to environmental pollution when disposed of improperly.

Some people believe that paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils can be recycled – however, this is not the case. Including these items in your blue bin recycling can cause issues for material recovery centers down the line. Paper plates and cups are often contaminated with stuck-on food which attracts bugs and vermin – remember that a lot of the sorting at recycling facilities is done by hand. Plastic utensils are too small to recycle – anything that goes into your blue bin has to be at least 2 inches by 2 inches, otherwise it can fall through the gaps in the machinery at the recycling facility and end up contaminating other materials.

Another popular type of disposable dishware and silverware are so-called “compostable,” “greenware,” or “bioplastic” products. Many people purchase these products thinking that they are less harmful than other disposables. However, these items are usually not compostable anywhere in Vermont. Companies often market these products as Earth-friendly, but they don’t account for regional differences in recycling markets or whether or not local compost facilities can actually process them.

To cut down on your waste for summer gatherings, consider packing a kit with reusable dishware and utensils, cloth napkins in lieu of paper ones, and reusable containers and wrappings for your food. And remember, food scraps are banned from going to the landfill in Vermont, so make sure to save any leftovers or properly dispose of them.

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