Skills & Techniques

4 Tips for Minimizing Waste this 4th of July

Patrice and Justin La Vigne - July 2, 2020

It’s hard not to anticipate summer without thinking of neighborhood barbecues and park picnics—especially with 4th of July upon us. While many parades, street festivals and other large gatherings have been canceled due to urging by health officials as well as local and state recommendations, depending on where you are in the country, there may still be gatherings on a smaller scale.

Summer also marks a good time for making sustainability changes, especially with the “Plastic Free July,” a global movement started by Plastic Free Foundation.

People tend to get overwhelmed when they contemplate #DontFeedtheLandfills initiatives. Our advice: do it at your own pace, and start small. We don’t need a handful of people living sustainably perfectly. We need millions doing it imperfectly.

If you are hosting or attending a 4th of July picnic, or any other summer barbecue gathering, here are 4 tips to help you Plan Ahead and Prepare for a zero landfill 4th of July and summer.

1) Either as a host or a guest, you can refuse disposable dinnerware. Tell your guests to bring their own, and bring your own when you go to someone else’s party. This includes plates, utensils and cups/water bottles. BBQ season tends to increase single-use product use. Some estimates say 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown into the landfill in the US every year, and usually they’ve been used one time. And if you’re worried about COVID-19 transmission on reusables, health officials have determined they can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.

2) One of the most accessible ways to make a change is to upcycle material into reusable napkins or rags. Do you have an old sheet, towels or clothing that can be cut up to replace disposable paper napkins and paper towels? Really any old fabric could work. Paper waste is sometimes easy to justify because it’s “biodegradable,” unlike plastic. However, a lot of trees and resources go into the production, plus paper takes up more landfill space than people realize: 35 pounds out of every 100 pounds of trash to be exact.

3) If you are offering single-use drinks, choose aluminum versus plastic bottles. Aluminum cans are super recyclers, and 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use. In fact, it takes more energy to make a new aluminum can than it does to recycle one.

4) Look into special recycling programs if you are offering single-use items at your picnic. Terracycle is a great program for recycling post-consumer waste that is generally non-recyclable at community transfer centers or private waste acquisition companies. Terracycle actually offers a recycling program for many picnic items, like chip and snack bags, kid drink pouches, red solo cups and balloons. We still recommend bringing your own when possible, but there are other options.

By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about the important work of our mobile education teamsProud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Thule, Fjällräven and Klean Kanteen.

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