Shipping materials are prime for recycling

We know you’re primed for Amazon Prime Day. But once you’ve received the items you’ve ordered, what are you going to do with all the shipping materials? Reuse and recycle them, of course!

Keep some around

Used boxes and shipping materials can come in handy when you have a gift to wrap or something to store or ship. Set aside a tote, cabinet or shelf to store used shipping materials. It will save you time and money.

Boxed in? Boxes out!

All cardboard shipping boxes are 100-percent recyclable. They can be recycled in your curbside recycling bin or at your local drop-off recycling center. Be sure to break them down before recycling to save space.

Films a-plenty

Most plastic film shipping materials can be recycled along with your plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and big box stores. These include air pillows, bubble wrap, plastic envelopes (including bubble-wrap lined and Tyvek™), and the film and foam wrap from new household items such as appliances and furniture. Always remove address labels from envelopes before recycling. And since you also need to pop bubble wrap and air pillows before recycling, give them to the kids for a few moments of loud fun.

What about Styrofoam™?

If you purchase furniture or appliances, you’re bound to get Styrofoam™ (a.k.a. EPS: expanded polystyrene) shipping materials at some point. The only place in the Kansas City region that recycles EPS molds, blocks, and coolers is ACH Foam Technologies, 1400 N. 3rd St., Kansas City, KS, (913) 321-4114. EPS must be clean: no dirt, debris, tape, tape residue, labels, glue, marker, or discoloration. Please note: no other type of polystyrene is recyclable in the metro area, including packing peanuts and food and beverage containers (cups, takeout containers, egg cartons, meat trays, etc.).

UFO (unidentified foam objects)

Last year, Amazon started shipping items in these new brown paper envelopes. The envelopes state that they are recyclable. However, customers were skeptical when they found that the cushioning was a white, crumbly, foam-like substance. Amazon confirmed that during the recycling process, this cushioning material (a type of expanded adhesive) is separated from the recyclable paper fibers. So these envelopes can be recycled in your curbside recycling bin or with cardboard at your local drop-off recycling center.

Yes, there’s a “no list”

Two types of shipping materials that cannot be recycled are paper envelopes lined with bubble wrap and PE-LD (low-density polyethylene). Often mistaken for polystyrene, PE-LD is different in the following ways: it’s squeezable, it bends but does not break, and it’s labeled with a #4 plastic resin code (polystyrene is #6). Reuse options include shipping, storage and crafting.

To find out where to recycle your shipping materials, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Sustainable product websites help you shop smart for the holidays

paper-art-215838_640When you’re faced with a shelf full of products, it’s hard to know what the best choice is for you and for our environment.

An easy way to help keep our air clean is to shop at locally-owned stores or markets: the shorter the distance a product has to travel, the fewer emissions enter our air. But shopping smart can reach beyond local shops. Several websites add transparency and product information to the decision-making process.

  • GoodGuide.com helps you buy “safe, healthy, green and ethical products based on scientific ratings.” Products receive scores in three categories: health, environment and society. You can look up your favorite products to learn their scores, or scan a bar code at the store using the mobile app.
  • BetterWorldShopper.org lists the top 20 best and worst companies based on five categories: environment, human rights, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. They intend to rank “every company in the world,” and you can buy the complete shopping guide for $10 (plus shipping).
  • Try to find holiday cards like these that use soy-based inks to cut down on solvents, and buy 100 percent recycled paper to reduce air pollution associated with growing and logging trees. Or, you might consider sending a Christmas e-card instead.
  • WaterPrint.net explains how much water it took to get a product to you, whether it’s your daily apple or the jeans you’re wearing. It was originally designed as a free iPhone app, but also has a mobile version available via the website.

Larger corporations have caught on to the eco-trend, as well:

  • Target recently launched its Sustainable Product Standard, designed in partnership with GoodGuide, which adds packaging and water quality scores along with GoodGuide’s rankings.
  • Last year Amazon started Vine.com, a site which determines if products are sustainable, organic or energy and water efficient, among other standards, before selling them.
  • eBay encourages green shopping with a separate site for green buyers and sellers.

With these resources, you can help our air quality AND check off all the presents on your lists this year.