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Sierra Club helps people adopt zero waste lifestyle

Recycling bins next to the Public Works Yard in Ocean Pines.

By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Oct. 12,2023) The Sierra Club of the Eastern Shore is trying to move the public toward a “zero waste lifestyle” by encouraging people to make personal changes, according to Cindy Dillon, who chairs the lower Eastern Shore chapter of the environmental organization

“We talk to citizens about the R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot,” she said of the campaign.

Here, in Dillon’s view, is how it works:

  • Refuse: Do I actually need this item?

Some items to consider refusing: single use plastic bags, straws, and plastic water bottles.

“If the things you want are coming in plastic, don’t buy them,” Dillon said.

She provided the example of produce that is being packaged in plastic and suggested instead to buy them loose.

She also suggested that diners take a silicone bag or other container with them to restaurants to take home leftovers instead of taking a restaurant-supplied

Styrofoam container. Shoppers can bring reusable bags to the supermarket and other stores and refuse plastic and paper bags.

“We don’t encourage people to take paper over plastic. Instead, we encourage people to get used to bringing their own bags,” Dillon said.

  • Reduce:  Do you need as much stuff as you are buying? Probably not.

Products that are necessary can frequently be purchased with less packaging. Dillon suggests buying laundry sheets instead of liquid in plastic jugs, shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoo in plastic containers, toothpaste tablets instead of toothpaste in tubes.

  • Reuse: Instead of throwing out that stained T-shirt, turn it into a rag, Dillon advised. Go to thrift shops for clothes, dishes, furniture and other items. And instead of throwing out that glass jar, store leftovers in it and pass on purchasing plastic bags or containers.
  • Recycle: for items you do need to purchase, like milk, recycle the jug.

Dillon said that recycling is based on the market for the recycled items. If there is no market for an item, it goes into the landfill. Only 5-6 percent of plastics sent to recycling are actually recycled in the United States, according to Beyond Plastics. For contrast, 66 percent of paper is recycled.

Plastic that has the number “1” or “2” on it is regularly recycled. There is also a strong market for cardboard and aluminum. Glass can be difficult because of all the colored glasses, but it is worth trying to recycle, Dillon said.

The Sierra Club of the Lower Eastern Shore recently saw a plastic bag ban pass in Salisbury and would like to see other jurisdictions pass this type of legislation as well.

  • Rot. Instead of throwing food out, compost it. Fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds and eggshells can be turned into compost for the garden.

To learn more about the Zero Waste campaign or to get involved with the Sierra Club of the Lower Eastern Shore, visit the website at Lower Eastern Shore Group | Sierra Club.