If you’ve ever wanted to recycle the plastic bag inside of your box of Cheerios but didn’t quite know how, a Charlottesville-based initiative called How2Recycle could be your saving grace. In the spirit of Earth Day, here’s a bit more about the project created by a three-person team working to make a big impact out of their tiny East Water Street office.
How2Recycle, a project within a larger nonprofit called GreenBlue, encompasses several aspects of sustainability, including chemical formulation, forestry, packaging, recycling and composting, according to Anne Elsea, the GreenBlue communications coordinator.
“Folks in Charlottesville may know us through our work composting at the City Market,” she says. But even if you haven’t met the team in-person, you may have seen How2Recycle’s labels across the United States and Canada in stores such as Target, Wegmans, Walmart and Food Lion and on brands like McDonald’s, Verizon, Hasboro and Coca-Cola. Over 45 member companies sport How2Recycle labels on thousands of food and beverage items, toys, cleaning products and more.
The team’s main goal? Making recycling simple.
On a box of Cheerios, for instance, the How2Recycle label says the cardboard can be recycled as a paper box, but the plastic bag inside must be taken back to a store drop-off.
“The recycling label that pleasantly surprises people the most is our store drop-off label,” Elsea says. “Many people know that you can take your plastic bags back to the grocery store to recycle, but did you know that you can also recycle other plastic bags and wraps there?”
These bags include those Cheerios bags and Sealed Air bags, or packaging pillows, that you may receive inside your Amazon shipments—”Just pop them to deflate and take them back to the store,” Elsea says.
Locally, How2Recycle drop off locations for plastic bags, plastic film and plastic wrap can be found in Target and at the McIntire Recycling Facility.
Nationally, a major issue with recycling is “aspirational recycling,” Elsea says, “where people will throw most of their packaging into their recycling bin in hopes that it will somehow get recycled.”
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and it costs time and money to filter out the trash that can’t yet be recycled.
“So by keeping those items out, that don’t belong in the recycling bin, you’re doing as much good as putting the things in recycling that do belong there,” Elsea says. “Knowing how to recycle right isn’t easy. And that’s exactly what we are trying to fix.”