If you’re anything like me, you find that summer barbecues and parties have the potential to be some of the most confounding events on the planet.
Not the parties, exactly, but the clean-up.
You know what I mean…a friend of yours throws a giant bash, fires up the grill, and starts handing out drinks from a nearby punch bowl. Somewhere along the way – usually while shuffling food from the kitchen to the serving table – they launch into a big half-apology about how with so many people attending, they are going to make this party “easy” with no dishes to wash and 100% disposable plates, cups and utensils.
But it’s OK, right? Because all of those red Solo cups are recyclable, right? Those paper plates and utensils can just go into the recycling bin with the orange juice containers and the cereal boxes…right?
Well, not exactly.
Here’s the thing. As anyone who has ever thrown a large party knows, party guests – while wonderful, of course – don’t always understand (or follow) the rules.
First, let’s just get this out of the way. The red Solo cups are NOT easily recyclable – and most recycling facilities don’t take them. They are made of #6 plastic, the same category as Styrofoam and polystyrene. In the landfill, they take about 450 years to break down.
Second, even when you have a paper plate that is recyclable…even when you have a cup or utensils that are marked with the little recycle symbol – they can’t go into the recycling stream with food attached to them. I’m not saying that a large group of guests is necessarily messy and disrespectful of what they throw in the recycling bin (yes, I am), but think about it for a minute. With the best of intentions, you set out clearly marked bins for trash, compost and recycling at a party…and at the end of the day, what you’ll find are recyclable plates and utensils piled on top of each other smeared with ketchup, potato salad and those greasy food chunks leftover from what may very well have been the best grill meal ever.
And despite your very best efforts, I’ll bet you money that you’ve got stacks of those red Solo cups mingled in.
And suddenly your recycle bin filled with used recyclable party goods…isn’t so recyclable.
So what am I trying to say…that recycling at a large party is futile?
Of course not! But I’m a firm believer in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra. There will always be plenty of material to reuse and recycle. This conversation just so happens to be about reducing.
Which leads me to one of the most amazing companies – and Green Girl customers – ever: Eco-Products, a leading Boulder-based company creating foodservice packaging made with renewable resources and post-consumer recycled content.
Everything from the cups to the straws to the plates to their clam-shell take-home packages are compostable. Drizzled with mustard? Soaked in grease? Mixed in with those big red cups filled with the melting ice? No problem. It all gets picked up with the compost to become healthy soil once again.
The folks at Eco-Products are magicians, really. Not only are they able to turn the most rowdy crowd into a collection of downright responsible citizens, Eco-Products actually strives to be a responsible company in ALL ways. Or, as they describe themselves: “We’re not a disposable products company trying to act green, we’re a green company who happens to operate in disposables.”
And they’re one of my favorite customers.
Not only is Eco-Products an extremely green company, they truly are green through and through. They actually do walk their talk. Basically, they make green products, their employees promote efforts to divert waste, and their management is dedicated to supporting all of their employees by holding a Hard-to-Recycle Event with Green Girl Recycling (that’s us!) each year so that they can not only be green in their office, they can be green at their homes too.
They are also incredibly organized. When Eco-Products holds their annual Hard-to-Recycle drive with us each year, they very systematically label boxes for all sorts of items, such as…a box for CFL light bulbs, a box for fluorescent light bulbs, a bin for alkaline batteries, and a bin for lithium batteries. My favorite this year was a box called “Really not sure if I can be recycled?”
I love that they’re always trying to stretch – doing a little bit more and attempting to exceed the previous year’s amounts. In the past five years, as a matter of fact, they have recycled over 5,000 lbs in electronics waste with Green Girl. That’s almost three tons!
Which is why I’m so proud that they have been awarded the Best Overall Sustainability Program by their parent company, Jarden. Jarden is the enormous parent company of over 100 large businesses world wide. Hundreds of businesses competed in this Eco-Award and Eco-Products won! The Eco-Team at Eco-Products had to answer a million questions, jump through multiple hoops and be the greenest in many areas of operation to be the sole winner of this prestigious award. Eco-Products stood out thanks to its efforts to make sustainability part of their everyday culture.
I’m proud that Green Girl Recycling is a continuing part of Eco-Product’s program. Not only have they taken the guesswork out of the summer party, they’ve also removed the angst. Thanks to them, I can just attend a party – and not worry about trying to run interference at the clean-up. (Hey, I run a recycling company – if you think I can avoid the clean-up, you’ve got another thing coming.)
Currently, I’m on the road – visiting with friends and family across the country in a series of summer parties and memories in the making. Obviously, I can’t control how other people throw a party, but I do know this: I love a good party. And I love an easy, responsible clean-up even better.
If YOU want to actually ‘do the right thing’ and be the green party-thrower you know you are at heart go to: www.ecoproductsstore.com and order some plates, cups, napkins and straws. I find if I just have these items in the closet, the other CRAP doesn’t get used.
I don’t know about you, but that, my friends, makes me want to throw another party.