A trip to the recycling center to find out what grocery shopping and recycling have in common
City Market staff went to visit the recycling plant in Williston last week.
City Market staff looking classy and safe.
Why would a grocery store bother to take its staff to the recycling center? I wasn’t certain until we were inside and suddenly surrounded by things that looked familiar – gallon jugs of Monument Farms milk, Cheerio boxes, tubs of Butterworks yogurt, cans of Muir Glen tomatoes – only rather than sitting full on our shelves, they were empty and crumpled, ready for the next stage of their lives.
The retirement home for cereal boxes.
Local milk, on the flip side.
Packaging makes up about 30% of of the total municipal solid waste stream so our choices at the grocery store have a huge impact on the waste and recycling systems.
Baled recycled cans ready to be sold.
The statistics on the benefits of recycling are impressive. Chittenden Solid Waste District notes that recycling aluminum cans uses 95% less energy than making cans from virgin material. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, and 7,000 gallons of water over creating paper from trees.
The conveyor belt of recycling - workers sort out the different types of plastic by hand.
Still, watching those conveyor belts moving tons of plastic, aluminum, and paper, I vowed to start making more of my food choices based on reducing waste of all kinds – trash or recycling. After all, plastics number 3-7 get shipped all the way to China for reprocessing while glass can only be "downcycled" to use as aggregate in road construction projects (meaning it will never return as a wine or juice bottle on our shelves). If we need to conserve energy, I need to reduce first and recycle only when necessary.
The map of where some of our recycleables travel to for re-manufacturing.
We're hoping to work with Chittenden Solid Waste to organize some tours of our local recycling plant in the spring time. Meanwhile, Eva Sollberger did a great Stuck in Vermont video to give you a peek at the recycling process: