Upping the Ante on Recycling and Composting

Follow along each month in Attraction magazine as Sprout takes readers on tours of Mid-Shore farms, and more. They will share stories from the road as they visit and learn about area farms. Sprout provides individually portioned ready-to-eat meals using fresh, local and organic ingredients, delivered directly to customers as well as on sale in their Grab-N-Go Cafés in Easton and St. Michaels.

There is an issue that has existed for years and almost everyone contributes to it on a daily basis. While some are more conscious about their participation than others, some of the efforts that we believe to be helpful may just be a hoax. The problem is WASTE and the way in which it affects our environment. Specifically, materials, such as plastic, have become a burden to the environment and their abundance can cause issues for generations to come. It’s likely that you’re well aware of the long-term repercussions that disposing of such waste improperly can have, and that you even try to make a difference where you can, however, recycling isn’t as beneficial as it is made out to be. While throwing certain items in the blue bin does make an impact, there are other ways in which individuals and companies can help the environment and ensure that the earth is still inhabitable for their children, grandchildren, etc., and many have already gotten started.

Recycling is defined as converting waste into reusable material. Many recyclable items are used daily, such as plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, paper, etc., to reduce their ecological footprint. People have the right idea, but the problem is a large percentage of these materials still end up in landfills. While in 2010, recycling had increased over 89% since 1990, researchers have found that 91% of plastic and 79% of paper doesn’t actually get recycled. Over time, this results in tons of waste accumulating. Now, the goal here is not to deter you from recycling, as it is more beneficial than just throwing certain things in the trash, however, there are other methods of disposing of the products you use which will have a less harmful effect on the environment.

Recycling can be worth the hassle if it is done right. At the current rate, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050. It is important to do everything possible to keep this waste from ending up there. When materials are recycled properly, they are more likely to be converted into a new product. So, rinse your plastic bottles and remove the lid, be sure that paper is not contaminated with food and oils, empty aluminum containers and, if you’re unsure how to recycle something, do some research. Batteries, computers, TVs, and phones can be recycled, too. This is considered “e-recycling” and can be done by turning items in to certain companies or a local organization.

So, if not recycling, then what? Luckily there are other methods one can utilize to minimize their impact on the environment. One of these methods is composting. This is a natural process through which organic materials decompose. Not only does it decrease waste production, but it actually helps the environment by conditioning the soil. Composting is easy and can be done at home. The EPA says that about 24% of our waste is organic material – meaning it’s compostable. Unfortunately, only about 8% of Americans actually compost their waste. As composting is low maintenance and has many benefits for the environment, you can help to increase this percentage by composting on your own. Compost bins are available for purchase or you can make one yourself (with a little help from Google). Just pick a location, start a pile, and begin disposing of materials like food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, yard trimmings, and more in an eco-friendly way.

Several companies are adapting and changing the materials that they use to package their products to combat the issue of waste buildup in landfills and oceans. Many are also investing in the future through funding for better recycling programs. For example, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, and Keurig Dr Pepper are investing $100 million to improve the collection and processing of recycled materials. On top of doing so, they are planning to change their packaging in an effort to remind those who buy their products to recycle them. The companies aim to have large percentages of their bottles, in the future, be made from recycled material. These efforts are important as it should not fall solely on the consumers to make a difference.

Many companies use compostable packaging to eliminate the recycling debacle all together. At Sprout, all food packaging is compostable. They’ve partnered with World Centric, a company that provides packaging made from plant fibers rather than plastic. This allows the products to break down within 180 days, unlike their plastic and Styrofoam counterparts that will not break down in our lifetime. Not only do businesses that use compostable material feel better about their environmental impacts, but consumers, too, can avoid guilt when buying these products. Through purchasing compostable materials, people do not have to fret about the issues their waste may cause down the road. Such packaging is fairly priced and much better for the environment. It’s a win-win.

Aside from the way that you dispose of waste, there are other ways to become more eco-friendly in your everyday activities. With the current state of the environment and it’s predicted condition in years to come, every person and every action make a difference. Studies by World Bank show that without urgent action, global waste will increase by 70% by 2050. To help slow waste production you can donate old books to a library or school instead of throwing them out, upcycle or donate clothes, reuse gift bags, use items like toilet paper rolls and old newspapers for DIY projects, sell your old phone on eBay; the possibilities are endless. The changes you make don’t necessarily have to be large-scale or drastic, all efforts count, so join in and make a difference.

Sprout does their best to take care of the environment, not only through their compostable materials, but also through working with their farmers and local organizations. They have made it their mission to ensure that nothing goes to waste. All expired and left-over food is donated to local organizations, such as the Talbot Interfaith Shelter. Their food scraps are either composted or sent to local farmers on the Shore, such as Abundant Grace Farms, to become pig food. In turn, Sprout uses Abundant Grace’s pork in several of their meals, allowing the process to come full circle. Sprout and companies like them are doing their part to make the world a better place, not only for us, but for future generations. You can use methods stated here and/or do some research to find out ways you can make changes.

Sprout is proud to announce that they have partnered with Infinity Recycling from Chestertown and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to launch in 2020 a series of FREE to the public, Recycling and Composting Lectures. These lectures will be led by various partners in the community, including Owner/Founder of Sprout, Ryan Groll, President of Infinity Recycling, Ford Schumann, and ESLC’s very own Owen Bailey. This interactive series will be held at several local businesses that share the same passion for sustainability. To learn more about opportunities in the community, as well as steps you and your family can take at home, visit www.eatsprout.com, http://infinityrecycling.org or www.eslc.org.

The author, Georgia Foster, age 17, lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her mother and two sisters. She attends Easton High School and is passionate about writing, specifically feature writing and investigative journalism.

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