CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The pandemic pivot to take-out has had an unexpected consequence- tons of unrecyclable trash headed straight to our landfills.
Those plastic containers are not recyclable in the traditional sense, so some local students teamed up with a Charlotte nonprofit and found a way to save the planet- and save money in the process.
For months we were all ordering in, trying to support restaurants and get a good meal, one that pretty much always came in a plastic takeout container. Even area retirement centers and schools changed the way meals were served.
Providence Day School teacher Sarah Goodman said, “Because of COVID, we started using these to-go containers, and unfortunately after reaching out to Mecklenburg County recycling, we learned we can not recycle those containers in Mecklenburg County so they were going right into the landfill."
Libby and Sophie Barron are sisters and students at the school and part of a campus environmental group.
“I think we both wanted to make sure we were not throwing all of those plastic containers away it can be hard to watch," said Sophie.
The school then teamed up with Envision Charlotte, a nonprofit that has a plastics lab designed to break down waste products and turn them into material that can be used again.
“If you put it in your green bin it goes into the landfill so we have developed a way to create new products with it,” said Dan Heaton with Envision Charlotte.
They’re even turning the take-out containers into PPE gear for frontline workers, and in many cases creating new food containers, creating what’s called a circular economy.
“You can reduce cost, can create jobs in collection and processing, so there’s a lot of economic incentive to have a circular economy," Heaton noted.
The students have saved 360 pounds of plastic from going to the landfill. Envision Charlotte has collected more than three tons since the start of the pandemic.
“It gives me hope," Libby told us. Her sister Sophie added, “It feels really good that we can make this happen and not just throw the containers away.”
If you want to help recycle your own take-out containers there are two drop-off sites open to the public: one on 1105 Otts Street, or another one at Atherton Market.