Paper or Plastic?

By Robert Grigg & Benjamin Forcier For years, this question has plagued the minds of grocery shoppers everywhere. Without a reusable bag, shoppers must choose from one of two evils but the choice isn’t as clear as it seems. First off, both bag types must be manufactured and require transportation, already putting a hefty carbon footprint on them. Looking at the manufacturing side of things, plastic looks much better than paper bags. Manufacturing and shipping Paper bags requires the use of wood, twenty times the amount of water, almost twice as much energy, and seven times as much space than paper bags do while plastic bag production emits much less pollution since the gas used in production is captured, frozen, and stored before burning into the atmosphere. Regarding the use of space, paper is outperformed again by plastic – for every paper bag being shipped in a truck or sitting in a landfill, seven plastic bags could fit in the same space. While uglier during production, the second half of a paper bag’s life is a little more eco-friendly than that of its plastic counterpart. First of all, Paper bags will degrade faster outside of a landfill and pose little threat to wildlife that comes in proximity to it. When a plastic bag ends up outside of a landfill, they will decompose very slowly and – like a rock eventually turns to sand – break apart into Microplastics which have recently been observed in massive quantities in the guts of aquatic creatures. These tiny fragments are extremely pervasive and nearly impossible to clean up without special equipment. While consuming microplastics in small amounts isn’t harmful, As creatures at the bottom of the food chain consume small increments of plastic, Larger predators such as fish, sharks, and whales will accumulate a frighteningly large concentration of plastic in their gut. Considering how easy bags are to recycle, Plastic falls short as special requirements prevent plastic shopping bags from being recycled with other traditional plastics. Paper bags can go in the bin alongside with the usual paper recycling, leading to a higher rate of recycling amongst paper-users Considering all of this, there is no clear consensus for which is best – it depends on where the bags end up. If one plans on putting in the extra effort to recycle them or if they can guaruntee their plastic bags will end up in a landfill, plastic bags are the friendlier choice. If one doesn’t plan on ensuring proper disposal/ recycling or if they live near bodies of water – paper is the best choice. While this post’s sources were pulled from Reason.org, OceanConservancy.org, and The National Ocean Service, one may want to look up the benefits and drawbacks of each to see what better fits your region and lifestyle. However, to avoid this dreaded question entirely, the best option is still to get in the habit of using cloth…

What Is Hazardous Waste?

By Benjamin Forcier Hazardous waste is dfined by the EPA as waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. Hazardous waste can take many forms and is produced from an array of sources. Knowing what constitutes hazardous waste and how to dispose of different types can help us limit the environmental impact of harmful effects brought on by improper disposal. The EPA uses 4 characteristics to categorize hazardous wastes meaning waste is deemed hazardous when it has: Ignitability, or something flammable Corrosivity, or something that can rust or decompmose Reactivity, or something explosive Toxicity, or something poisonous Now one might think that this doesn’t apply to them – maybe it seems like this is something industries should worry about – but there are plenty of sources for hazardous waste in the average household. Below are some of the more common examples that could be found in one’s home: Stains, varnishes, & paint Moth balls Wood & metal polish Cooking oil/ grease Drain cleaners Fire extinguishers Glass cleaners Chlorine bleach Batteries Kerosene/ lighter fluid Automotive fluids Nail Polish remover Pesticides & herbicides Paint Rug deodorizer Perscription drugs If you are disposing of any of these items or other materials you’re unsure about, be sure to check the instructions on the product label for how to properly dispose of them. If you’re still unsure, or wish to learn more about the hazardous waste in your home, feel free to visit the EPA web page on household hazardous…

Reducing Waste in the Yard

By Robert Grigg & Benjamin Forcier As temperatures rise and springtime ushers in nature’s beauty, the garden is calling out to you. Putting in a little bit of hard work and time can result in having one’s own personal grocery store right outside-or possibly even inside- their home. The yard is also beckoning for some love as well, now that it’s finally growing again. However, with the increase of yard work and gardening comes an increase in related waste. Let’s explore some methods to keep the yeardwork eco-friendly, reduce waste, and promote healthy plants & animals. Choosing to plant flora that is native to your area attracts wildlife like birds and butterflies, and since they are used to the local climate;they reduce the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and extra watering. Trimming only the top third of your grass (lowers strain on regrowth ensures that deep, healthy roots can grow, reducing the need for fertilizer and trimmings acquired via mowing) Using organic mulch like wood chips, bark, leaves, and pine needles can help limit the growth of weeds in flower beds and retains the temperature and moisture of soil. Substituting grass sections of your lawn for mulch can greatly reduce water usage and make maintenance easier. While mowing the lawn: compost or leave grass clippings in your yard as they will help keep it moist and healthy And whether you’re doing yard or garden work, composting is a great help as well: Large portion of current landfill items are entirely compostable Provides free, or next to free, fertilizer for garden or lawn Makes use of scraps from both the tabletop and from yard or garden work While we at Vixster strive to provide a quality, flexible service picking up your trash and recycling, we also hope that our customers or other readers use sustainable tactics to lower the amount of trash they ever need to throw away. For more information on lawn care, gardening, or landscaping, please visit http://ucanr.edu/ or feel free to look up information on your…