Recycling Dilemma #1008: Plastic bags and film – Friend or Foe?

Paper or plastic? Environmentally conscious shoppers know the answer: none of the above. They know reusable totes beat paper or plastic every time. Forgoing plastic bags at the store has a big impact. But what about all the other plastic packaging in our lives? Film that wraps itself around our favorite snacks, air pillows and bubble wrap mailed to us daily, and newspaper bags magically appearing on our driveway.   

While it is most important to reduce our consumption of single use plastics such as bags and film, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these stretchy, sneaky plastics. They’re everywhere. Yet, they can’t be recycled in our curbside carts. They can, however, be easily recycled at local stores.  

Are these plastics all foes to the planet, or could they be recycled and reimagined as an eco-friendly material?  

The plastic bags and film that you recycle at the store are sold to manufacturers. They take on a second life as bottles and containers, plastic lumber, picnic tables, lawn furniture, playground equipment, recycling bins and more. Trex combines recycled film with reclaimed woods to create a wood-alternative decking and railing used in local parks, pathways and backyard patios.  

See how companies like Trex are reimagining plastic film as an Eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood lumber. 

Recycle these plastic films if they are clean and dry only: 

  • Air Pillows and Bubble Wrap 
  • Case Wrap, Pallet/Stretch Wrap 
  • Newspaper and Magazine Sleeves 
  • Bags on Clothing or Electronics 
  • Dry Cleaning Bags 
  • Bread Bags, Produce Bags, Food Storage Bags (but NOT frozen food or salad bags) 
  • Grocery/Retail Bags & Other Film Packages 

Please only recycle film that is clean and dry. Moisture causes mildew on film and cannot be accepted at stores. For a printable guide, click here.

Plastic bags and film can be recycled at participating locations such as all grocery stores in The Woodlands, the Precinct 3 Recycling Facility and department stores such as Walmart and Target. Look for a receptacle near the entrance or ask staff at the service desk.  Please note, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some locations may not be accepting plastics at this time. If either is the case, please collect your bags/wraps at home until events change. Bags/wraps can be compressed and stored inside another plastic bag. 

Plastic bags and bagged recyclables are not accepted in our curbside recycling cart program because sorting equipment is not designed to process it without damaging equipment or creating hazardous work conditions for staff. Find more information in Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:    

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov  

3R Recycling Drive-thru

Convenient, free one-day recycling event.

The Woodlands Township’s annual 3R Bazaar is mobilizing this year; it’s been reimagined as the 3R Recycling Drive-thru. Enjoy convenient, free one-day recycling from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle or bicycle on Saturday, November 14, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of The Woodlands High School (enter from Millennium Forest Dr).

Although the traditional bazaar element has been removed this year residents are encouraged to celebrate the true spirit of 3R, finding new opportunities to recycle items that cannot be recycled in curbside carts. Refer to the list below for accepted items and guidelines. Free recycling is for residents only, please no businesses. 

The safety of volunteers, staff and residents is the highest priority. All volunteers and staff will wear face coverings. Participants are required to wear a face covering as well, while items are being removed from the car. If you don’t have a mask, we’re happy to provide one. 

This year’s Village Recycling Challenge item is Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries. This friendly competition awards funds for scholarships to Villages with the highest participation; funds are donated by The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. Please label your bag/box of batteries with your Village’s name. 

Free One-Day Drive-thru Recycling  

Bag or box items separately by category and place them in your trunk or back passenger side seat for safe access by volunteers. A volunteer will open the trunk, hatchback or rear side passenger door to remove items. Residents only, no businesses  

  • Batteries – Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V labeled with village name. 
  • Disposable Razorblades with packaging. See this list for examples. 
  • Eyeglasses, sunglasses and cases  
  • Oral Care Products – Toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss containers. 
  • Snack and drink pouches – Any brand with straws and pouch lids. See this list for examples. 
  • Styrofoam block packaging – No food containers or cups. 
  • Textiles – Overly worn clothing, shoes, linens, fabric scraps and other unusable. textiles. Please donate any good, usable items to local charities here. 

Document Shredding  

  • Secure on-site document shredding   
  • Residential only - limited capacity (first come, first served)   
  • Recommended donation of 5 cans of food or $5 per box; benefits Interfaith Food Pantry 

Can’t make it to 3R? That’s ok! The Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus, Best Buy, and some Walmart’s accept batteries all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as Styrofoam, electronics, lightbulbs, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  

Is your group looking for a fundraising opportunity or trying to collect items for a reuse project? Consider joining us at 3R. Check out Terracycle for ideas to earn funds for your organization. 

For event updates and more information, contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department at 281-281-3800 or visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3Rbazaar

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Save the date for GreenUp: Fall Sweep

In light of the annual Earth Day GreenUp cancellation in March, the Township encourages individuals and family groups to organize their own cleanup on Saturday, September 5, 2020. 

Help keep The Woodlands looking clean and green. 

How Fall Sweep Works 

  • Gather your family and ready your gloves, bags and outdoor gear for some community beautification. 
  • Choose a location in the community in need of litter cleanup. Check out suggested sites below for ideas. 
  • Cleanup litter along pathways and in the tree lines. Report large or hazardous items to the Township through the 311 App or by calling 281-210-3800 during normal business hours. 
  • Dispose of full bags at home or in a park trash can. Tie your trash bags tightly to protect sanitation workers. Avoid causing more litter issues and take bags home if  park trash cans are full. 
  • Share your success by posting a photo on social media using #GreenUpFallSweep 

Safety 

  •  Wear protective gear– Gloves and close-toed shoes  
  • Follow COVID-19 guidelines – Wear gloves and maintain a 6’ distance. Bring a mask for passing within 6’ of others. If you encounter littered gloves and masks, please use care and review this guide for safety tips. Dispose of your single-use face masks and disposable gloves in a trash can (not a recycle can). Check out this resource by Keep Texas Beautiful for cleanup guidance during the pandemic. 
  • Be prepared for the elements – Long pants, closed-toe shoes, hats, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a reusable water bottle are recommended. 
  • Sanitize when you’re done – Immediately wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer after collecting litter. 
  • Be aware of wildlife –Observe from a distance. Watch where you step. Do not place hands in holes or brush piles.   
  • Know poisonous plants– Poison ivy is common along pathways and inside tree lines. Touching leaves and stems can cause a painful rash. Remember leaves of three, leave it be! See image below.   

Site Suggestions 

Participants may choose their own cleanup locations. Parks, pathways and green spaces by businesses always need cleaning. Pay attention to tree lines to spot litter hiding under leaves and brush. 

Litter Hot Spots 

Find litter hot spots on www.Litterati.org or by using the app on your phone. Help us track litter in The Woodlands by snapping pictures and logging found litter in the app leading up to the event, during and after for future events! 

 Locations by Village 

Find specific locations within each village. These are only suggestions only; you’re encouraged to clean up any public area in need. 

Click on the map below for locations and directions

Why is litter a problem? 

All litter, big and small, is not only unsightly, it has serious environmental consequences. Please dispose of waste properly, educate or report those seen littering and start the habit of picking it up when you see it. 
 
Negative effects on our community: 

  • Decreases community aesthetic, reducing property values. 
  • Causes soil, water and air pollution. Chemicals can leach from litter, polluting nearby soil and water bodies. If the littered area is burned, it can release toxic particulate matter. 
  • Creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can reproduce in containers as small as a bottle cap. 
  • Causes fire hazards. 
  • Harms wildlife. Aquatic and land animals ingest small pieces of litter and fishing line or other tanglers entrap them.  

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Hoping the pet waste fairy picks up after your dog?

What’s pet waste have to do with wading in Spring Creek? Let’s break it down: Based on national averages, our community dog population produces about 55,000 pounds of waste per day*. Most of us are diligent about picking up after our pets, but not all. Too many feel someone else will clean it up – maybe the pet waste fairy. 

When dog waste is left behind, the bacteria it contains is washed into the nearest storm drain during rains, flowing to the closest waterway. It empties unfiltered and untreated into our community streams, creating a health hazard for humans enjoying water-based recreation. 

The contaminated water continues to the next stream, river or lake all the way to the coast and the Gulf of Mexico, adding bacteria along the way as it runs through more urban areas. Houston-Galveston Area Council’s 2020 Basin Report indicates that almost 65 percent of Spring Creek is listed as impaired because of high bacteria levels. The primary source is dog waste.

42% of the streams in our region are impaired due to elevated levels of bacteria. For more information, see pages 4 and 8 of the 2020 Basin Report for more details regarding Spring Creek.

According to the Report, in the Houston-Galveston region one of the most significant water quality issues faced is elevated levels of bacteria in our local waterways – indicators of the presence of sewage and pathogens such as infectious bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. High bacterial concentrations may cause gastrointestinal illnesses or skin infections in swimmers or others who come into direct contact with the water. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, set the acceptable level of bacteria in waterways as 126 colony forming units (cfu) per deciliter (dL). On average, Spring Creek levels are between 350 and 800 cfu/dL, with the higher numbers during runoff after rainfall. The tributaries within the Township that flow into Spring Creek, Lower Panther Branch Creek, Willow Creek, Bear Branch Creek and Lake Woodlands, are all included on the list of impaired waterways because of bacteria. 

More data on impairment levels of Spring Creek are available courtesy of the Houston-Galveston Area Council

Be a responsible pet owner and don’t wait for the pet waste fairy. Picking up after our dogs and keeping our community clean, means water that’s safe for human recreation and for the aquatic organisms that live in it, and better for the environmental health of our community. 

*Resources: American Veterinary Medicine Association and  www.clearchoicescleanwater.org 


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Recycling Dilemma #1007 K-Cups: How to stay caffeinated, sustainably

In 2013, roughly 10 billion Keurig brand coffee pods were sold. Popularity of single serving coffee makers has grown since then and manufacturers of pods are hesitant to reveal how many are sold annually. It is estimated that the amount of coffee pods, or K-Cups, in landfills could wrap around the planet 10 times! (The Story of Stuff) Imagine all the wasted coffee grounds that could be composted and all the aluminum and plastic could have been recycled into new products.

We love the convenience of coffee pods, but it comes with a cost: coffee pods cannot be recycled through our curbside program and are considered a contaminant. While some brands label their pods “recyclable” that holds true only in select communities with coffee pod recycling programs.  Currently, those programs are not operating in our region. 

Why cant I recycle them curbside? 

  1. Multiple materials comprise a coffee pod: an aluminum top, paper filter, coffee grounds and a plastic cup. Each material must be separated to be properly recycled, a process too complex for the current technology at standard recycling centers. 
  1. Although our curbside program accepts plastic and aluminum, both the plastic cup and aluminum components are too small to be properly sorted at the recycling facility. Anything smaller than 4 inches by 4 inches (like a post-it note size) falls through a screen and is landfilled with other small contaminants and residue.  

There is a way! 

You can recover your coffee pod aluminum by combining it with other clean aluminum into a ball 4” or larger and place it in your cart.  

Compost the coffee grounds and paper for a great soil additive. 

Take advantage of the one of several mail-in opportunities. These services separate the plastic and aluminum for recycling and the coffee and filter for composting. Check with the coffee pod maker for a free mail-in program. Terracycle, Recycle A Cup, and Grounds to Grow On also provide this service. 

Reduce your use 

If you’re ready to kick the single-use habit and reduce waste

Try another brewing method. Some coffee machines are compatible with a refillable K-cup or coffee pod option. French press espresso makers are capable of making smaller quantities of coffee and require no single use materials to brew.  

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:   

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov