Township asks, ‘R’ you ready to refuse plastic?

 

For years, there were the “Three Rs” of waste management — re-use, reduce and recycle. That mantra laid the groundwork for recycling and re-purposing of materials.

Municipalities across the state now want take the next step, and Washington Township is no different. Vicky Binetti, chair of the township environmental commission, wants to add a fourth “R”: refuse.

“You don’t have to take a plastic bag if offered; you can refuse it,” Binetti said. “You don’t have to take a plastic straw; refuse it. It feeds into the whole thing and it will reduce the amount of waste.”

In theory, she’s right. If consumers decline a plastic straw at a coffee shop or turn down a plastic bag at the local supermarket, the amount of waste would be drastically reduced. Yet the reality is that people still use plastic bags and improperly dispose of them to boot.

With that in mind, Binetti and the Margaret E. Heggan Free Public Library have teamed to show the free documentary “Bag It” at the library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Registration can be done online or over the phone.

The documentary, released in 2011, follows Jeb Berrier and his research into plastics, both bags and other merchandise such as bottles, and their effects on people and the environment.

“You see yourself,” Binetti said of the documentary. “It’s a good way to bring the message home that we have a lot of unnecessary stuff that we don’t think twice about.”

Friday is “America Recycles Day,” created in 1997 to bring awareness to recycling. Along with the documentary, the township wants to re-educate residents on what is and isn’t  recyclable.

“We had to reduce the kinds of plastic we can recycle,; we used to do plastics one through seven,” Binetti noted. “We can no longer recycle plastics three through seven. We only recycle plastics number one and two. It’s important people realize there should only be one and two in recycling cans.”

Single-use plastic bags from stores such as Acme and Wawa don’t belong in cans either —  they are not recyclable in curbside practices.

“The problem with them is they kind of gum up the works at facilities where they sort out recycling materials,” Binetti added. “It can actually shut down the equipment.”

Such plastic bags can be collected at the municipal building in town, the library or at a  local supermarket. The environmental commission also ran an exchange where residents could bring 10 single-use bags and exchange them for a reusable one.

The sustainable Washington Township creative team will begin its winter challenge, Holiday ornament-making, on Friday. In the past, the team solicited pictures of creative food displays for football season. This winter, they will seek people to make holiday ornaments out of recycled materials.

Binetti calls it “upcycling.”

More information on the ornament-making event can be found on the township Facebook page, “Painting the Town, Washington Township, NJ.”

For more information on what is and is not recyclable, visit the township’s website at  www.twp.washington.nj.us. The environmental commission meets at the municipal building the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m.