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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Is there such a thing as eco-friendly disposable cups?

Good question! When organizing events, we were faced with the issue of what kind of cups to use a couple of years ago and decided to go with compostable cups because production/ingredients are better and we had access to a composting facility. If you don't have access to a facility, the cups will end up in the landfill as any other trash.

Reusable cups will always be the best option.

For disposable, there are a few greener options to consider. Let me list some of the pros/cons of these options to help you make a decision:
Pros: Low cost; can be recycled through Terracycle; light; no leaks; people are used to them; easy to
find/buy
Cons: Support single-use plastic industry; contribute to the fossil fuel industry; manufacturing not a clean process; users exposed to plastic chemical; break down into small plastic pieces if not properly disposed


Pros: Made from compostable ingredients (sugarcane bagasse; corn starch etc); support green industry; degrade faster and naturally (in industrial composting environment) 
Cons: More expensive than regular plastic; a bit of research involved in picking the best option/vendor; without an industrial composting facility, they will have to go to the landfill; break down into small plastic pieces if not properly disposed

Pros: Normally cheaper than compostable option; support recycling industry; are made from up to 30%
recycled plastic
Cons: Also supports single-use plastic industry; contributes to the fossil fuel industry; manufacturing not a clean process; users exposed to plastic chemical; go to the landfill; break down into small plastic pieces if not properly dispose 


4. Paper (from responsible sources/renewable material)
Pros: Reasonable price; support green industry; some are 100% made from bamboo or renewable
sources
Cons: More expensive than regular plastic cups; go to the landfill; production is resource-use intensive; might leak; use plastic coat

In sum: if it is disposable, it's not eco-friendly - it will become waste a few minutes after being used.

But if you are really going for disposable, your pick will most probably depend on your budget and who you want to support. As you can see from the list above, most of the disposable cups will end up going to the landfill...

Properly Disposing of Nail Polish

Did you know that nail polish often contains toxic chemicals and the U.S. EPA considers nail polish to be household hazardous waste (HHW)?

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Environmental Consultant John White explained the difference between residential and commercial proper disposal:

"Nail polish typically contains a large amount of volatile organic solvent which gives it the distinctive odor. The solvent will make the nail polish ignitable, meaning it has a flashpoint less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Waste generated by a business with a flashpoint less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit would be regulated as a hazardous waste and would need to be shipped to a facility permitted to accept such waste.

Waste generated by Homeowners in Florida is excluded from regulation as a hazardous waste under Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) 261.4(b)(1). The regulations in 40 CFR that pertain to hazardous waste are adopted by Florida in the Florida Administrative Code (FAC) 62-730. So, under this exclusion, if the nail polish is generated by a household (this does not include an in-home business) then the waste nail polish is not regulated as a hazardous waste and may be disposed of in the trash. Since disposal of chemicals is a recognized threat to Florida’s groundwater, most counties in Florida have household hazardous waste collection centers to ensure proper collection and disposal of these excluded wastes. Brevard County has managed a household hazardous waste program for many years now. The contact is Rita Perini; Rita.Perini@brevardfl.gov or (321) 633-1888.

If the waste nail polish is generated by a business, in any amount, then it would be regulated as a hazardous waste if it exhibits any characteristic identified in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C, this includes ignitability with a flashpoint below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Businesses must ensure proper disposal of hazardous waste which entails using a hazardous waste transporter registered in Florida and shipping the waste to a permitted treatment, storage, or disposal facility – typically out of state. The regulations for hazardous waste generators are in 40 CFR Part 260-268 and are adopted in 62-730, FAC.

Companies that generate more than 220 pounds in any calendar month must notify the state and federal government that they are managing hazardous waste. It is a simple form that identifies the location and type of wastes generated.

Most nail salons would be considered very small quantity generators, which means they would generate less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste in a calendar month. These companies do not need to notify the state but they still need to properly manage any waste."


To summarize the information received from FDEP:

1. Regular nail polish used at home (household use) should be disposed of in the regular trash when dried out (open container to let any leftover liquid dry out first) or, when nail polish is in liquid form, through the HHW program if available.

2. Businesses anywhere in Florida that generate more than 220 pounds in any calendar month should have a special service to collect their nail polish product and must notify the state and federal government that they are managing hazardous waste. Businesses generating less than 220 pounds/month do not need to notify the state but they still need to properly manage any waste.

Nail Polish Reusing
Other alternative for unwanted, but still liquid, nail polish is to reuse it to seal, mark, decorate or repair various items you already use. Some may even find crafts, like making nail polish pencils and pens or miniature snow globes, as good ways to reuse old nail polish bottles but be mindful of how you dispose of any remnants -- regular nail polish _is_ toxic.

Nail Polish Recycling
Even though not recyclable in regular curbside programs, despite being toxic, nail polish can be recycled. Companies like Chemwise offer recycling services and a mail-in option for liquid nail polish. Through their SMARTbeauty pack, they are able to recycle the polish, the glass container, and the plastic applicator. Instead of throwing nail polish in the trash, you may choose to go a step further and recycle it!

Something Else to Consider 
But if it is hazardous, should we even be applying polish to our nails?

A good alternative (for many reasons!) is to use non-toxic nail polish. "Most non-toxic nail polishes are three-free, meaning they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Beyond that, polishes go as far as being nine-, or 10-, or even 14-free."

There are many brands that fit the bill and will not include certain toxic components but why not top that with a cruelty-free, vegan product? If you are looking for that option? There are plenty of brands out there - like Adesse New York (12-free), 786 (11-free), IBN (11-free), Cirque Colors (10-free), Karma Organic (7-free), Cote (6-free) - and  Pure (16-free) was one of the more reasonably priced of them and with the least toxicity. Do your own research and consider switching to a healthier and more humane option.