The 4th of July celebrations are almost upon us. The 4th of July weekend is a good time to re-think what products we use. Before you break out the disposable plates and plastic flatware, consider a few facts about our country’s solid waste.
The U.S. produces 70 percent of the world’s solid waste, and 80 percent of U.S. products are used once and then thrown away. Paper is 37 percent of all the waste in the U.S., and paper waste in landfills emits methane. Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions (32 percent), which has a warming effect 23 times greater than carbon dioxide.
Compostable products are better alternatives to plastic disposables. Founded in 2004, World Centric sells compostable products made from renewable sources. The company’s website pointedly states that “every action has an impact on the well-being of our planet.”
Compostables, according to World Centric, “provide eco-friendly alternatives to everyday consumption choices, which can help minimize social & economic inequalities, reduce the impact of our consumption on the environment and help create a better and sustainable world.”
World Centric’s plates, bowls, and trays are made from bagasse, a fibrous sugar cane residue. How does the production of bagasse compare to recycled paper? According to the company’s website, the production of bagasse uses 2.08 kilowatt hours of energy while recycled paper uses 3.83 kwh. Bagasse only uses 0.4 gallons of water during production, while recycled paper uses 1.14 gallons. As for carbon emissions, bagasse emits 5.62 lbs during production, and recycled paper emits 2.88 lbs.
World Centric’s flatware and cups are made from polylactic acid (PLA6) or corn plastic. Comparing the production of PLA products to traditional plastic flatware (made from polypropylene or PP), PLA uses 7.39 kWh, and PP uses 9.25 kWh. During the production of PLA products, 0.27 lbs. of carbon is emitted, and 1.7 lbs. of carbon is emitted during the production of PP products. It takes 8.29 gallons of water to produce PLA products, but only 5.16 gallons of water to produce PP products. However, PP products are not compostable like PLA products.
The 4th of July weekend, with the barbecues used to celebrate it, is also a good time to think about the importance of recycling. The website, RecycleBank.com lists a number of facts about recycling:
1. Four percent of U.S. annual oil consumption is used to make plastics.
2. Producing products made from recycled material uses less energy. Making aluminum cans from recycled aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than making it from virgin aluminum.
3. The recycling industry makes up 65 percent of the U.S. clean energy economy, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Watch the following video about how to have a green 4th of July: