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ave you ever stood over a recycling bin and wondered if what you were tossing in was, actually, recyclable? An empty paper coffee cup, maybe, and that plastic lid. What about last night’s to-go containers: plastics with a #5 stamped on the bottom? Back in 2011, Edible Santa Barbara proposed reducing the use of plastics by issuing a challenge. I took the challenge myself and wrote about it, and about ways we can personally reduce our plastic use. Eight years later, I wanted to know what, if anything, had changed. What can be recycled in our community? Have there been improvements to recycling, and have we reduced our plastic use? In the past, China bought our recyclables, processed them and used them for industry. In 2018, China suddenly stopped accepting our plastic and cardboard. They raised their cleanliness standards and our waste wasn’t sufficiently free of contaminants such as food, pollutants and moisture. They also have plenty of their own recycling to deal with. This has left the U.S. in a lurch: Suddenly cut off from overseas recycling, we’ve had to scramble to process our own “refuse.” This is much larger than Santa Barbara, California or the United States. It’s a global problem. Worldwide, the recycling rate for plastic is only 9%. In the U.S., it’s about the same, just under 10%. Our plastic use is growing: According to an article in National Geographic last year, about half the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the last 15 years, and we’ve been making plastics since about 1950. Plastic use is rising rapidly. There are currently no financial incentives in place to return many plastic food containers we use, like the CRV (California Redemptive Value) program for some glass and plastic drink bottles and aluminum cans. Our CRV is so low (5 cents) that people often don’t bother to return items anyway. What about using biodegradable or compostable containers? The standards establishing which of these containers are biodegradable or compostable are inconsistent, and often, containers labeled compostable can only be broken down in a

EdibleSantaBarbara.com SUMMER 2019 | 31

Profile for Edible Santa Barbara

Edible Santa Barbara Summer 2019  

Celebrating the local food & wine culture of Santa Barbara County

Edible Santa Barbara Summer 2019  

Celebrating the local food & wine culture of Santa Barbara County

Profile for ediblesb