Share on Tumblr
Dear EarthTalk: Everyone knows we should recycle metal, glass and plastic cans and bottles, but what about all the lids, tops and caps?  I see people recycling plastic bottles, for example, with their caps on, but I've always been told to throw them out. Is that wrong? -- Stefanie Gandolfi, Oakland, CA

Many municipal recycling programs throughout the U.S. still do not accept plastic lids, tops and caps even though they take the containers that accompany them. The reason is that they are not typically made of the same kinds of plastics as their containers and therefore should not be mixed together with them.

“Just about any plastic can be recycled,” says Signe Gilson, Waste Diversion Manager for Seattle-based CleanScapes, one of the west coast’s leading “green” solid waste and recycling collectors, “but when two types are mixed, one contaminates the other, reducing the value of the material or requiring resources to separate them before processing.”

Also, plastic caps and lids can jam processing equipment at recycling facilities, and the plastic containers with tops still on them may not compact properly during the recycling process. They can also present a safety risk for recycling workers. “Most plastic bottles are baled for transport and if they don’t crack when baled, the ones with tightly fastened lids can explode when the temperature increases,” says Gilson.

Some recycling programs do accept plastic caps and lids, but usually only if they are off their containers completely and batched separately. Given the many potential issues, however, most recyclers would rather avoid taking them altogether. Thus it is hard to believe but true: In most locales the responsible consumers are the ones who throw their plastic caps and lids into the trash instead of the recycling bin.

As for metal caps and lids, they, too, can jam processing machines, but many municipalities accept them for recycling anyway because they do not cause any batch contamination issues. To deal with the potentially sharp lid of any can you are recycling (such as a tuna, soup or pet food can), carefully sink it down into the can, rinse it all clean, and put it in your recycling bin.

Of course, the best way to reduce all kinds of container and cap recycling is to buy in large rather than single-serving containers. Does the event you’re holding really require dozens and dozens of 8- to 16-ounce soda and water bottles, many of which will get left behind only partly consumed anyway? Why not buy large soda bottles, provide pitchers of (tap) water and let people pour into re-usable cups?

The same kind of approach can be taken with many if not all of the bottled and canned grocery items we buy routinely for the home. If more people bought in bulk, apportioning out of larger, fewer containers, we could take a huge bite out of what goes into the waste stream.

CONTACT: CleanScapes, www.cleanscapes.com.


Dear EarthTalk: What’s the story with animal cloning? Is the meat industry really cloning animals now to “beef up” production? - Frank DeFazio, Sudbury, MA

Cloning has been controversial ever since Scottish scientists announced in 1996 that they had cloned their first mammal, a sheep they named Dolly. While Dolly lived a painful, arthritic life and died prematurely, possibly due to the imperfections of cloning, industry nonetheless began seeking out ways to capitalize on the new technology. Meanwhile, critics bemoan cloning as immoral and a potential health and safety risk, given the as-yet-unknown consequences of eating foods generated in this way.

In January 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of cloned animals and their offspring for food, despite fierce opposition from animal welfare and consumer advocacy groups, environmental organizations, some members of Congress, and many consumers.

“Our evaluation is that the food from cloned animals is as safe as the food we eat every day,” said Stephen Sundlof, the FDA’s chief of veterinary medicine. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked that producers withhold cloned animals, but not their offspring, from the food supply while farmers, processors, grocery stores and restaurants decide how they will respond to the FDA’s landmark decision.

Unsurprisingly, industry groups also argue that beef and milk from cloned animals is safe to consume. They cite a 2005 University of Connecticut study, which concluded that beef and milk from cloned cows did not pose any health or safety threats to people consuming it. But critics say that the oft-cited single study was far too limited to yield any meaningful conclusions: Milk and beef was taken from just six cloned animals, and the study did not take into account whether clones were more susceptible to infection or other microbial problems, as many scientists suspect. Other researchers have noted severe deformities in many cloned animals, as well as a higher incidence of reproductive, immune and other health problems.

The Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety, in a petition it filed in late 2006, declared: “The available science shows that cloning presents serious food safety risks, animal welfare concerns and unresolved ethical issues that require strict oversight.” The group announced on September 2, 2008 that 20 leading U.S. food producers—including Kraft Foods, General Mills, Gerber/Nestle, Campbell’s Soup and Ben and Jerry’s—will not use cloned animals in their products. “The move by these companies represents a growing industry trend of responding to consumer demand for better food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards,” the group said in making the announcement.

Given the FDA’s green light, consumers’ only hope of avoiding cloned animal products may be to appeal to businesses directly not to peddle such items. The Pennsylvania-based American Anti-Vivisection Society, which opposes all forms of animal research and testing, has mounted a campaign to urge McDonald’s to forego cloned animals in its 30,000 restaurants worldwide.

CONTACTS:
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, www.fda.gov; Center for Food Safety, www.centerforfoodsafety.org; American Anti-Vivisection Society, www.aavs.org.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 85 - September 2018
Turnpage Blk


Home | Links | Advertise With Us | Who We Are | Message From The Editor | Privacy & Policy

Connect with Dish Magazine:
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

Search www.DishMag.com:

Copyright (c) 2013, Smash Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Smash Media Group, Inc. is prohibited.
Use of Dishmag and Dish Magazine are subject to certain Terms and Conditions.
Please read the Dishmag and Dish Magazine Privacy Statement. We care about you!