Episode 3: Down in the Dumps with The Story of Plastic

Don’t Make Us Get All John Wick On You

In Episode 3 we talk about watching the new documentary The Story of Plastic on Amazon Prime and we interview our friend John Hawkins, a Nashville waste diversion specialist and musician, to get his take on the problems with recycling.  We discuss if we should stop recycling since it’s broken and I think Michael might’ve even encouraged armed insurrection “John Wick Style”.  Did we mention that this isn’t your normal Zero Waste Podcast with tips about crafting your garbage and stuffing everything into a jar?  Oh wait, next week is about donating to TGCR who makes cool art with stuff that can’t be recycled.  Sustainability is complicated and as we say in Episode 1, Nothing Goes Away.

Down In The Dumps with The Story Of Plastic

In Episode 3 we talk about watching the new documentary The Story of Plastic on Amazon Prime and we interview our friend John Hawkins, a Nashville waste diversion specialist and musician, to get his take on the problems with recycling.

Lightly Edited Transcript:

Planned Obsolescence Lyrics:

Parts and pieces rolling down the assembly line
Each one is connected one at a time
Human hands and sweat were replaced by machine
Metal and wood was replaced by polypropylene

Maris Masellis: This is zero waste trash talk with Michael and Maris and today we’re going over the story of plastic featured on Amazon and we’re interviewing our friend John Hawkins a Nashville waste diversion specialist and musician the music you hear right now he’s so kindly gave to us through his iPhone and also rhymed with the word polypropylene tell me that’s not impressive.

The Story of Plastic

This is a story about Big Plastic’s plot to trash the planet for profit and the global movement rising up to stop it.

Maris Masellis: How are you today? Michael Britt. So I had a good work out this morning. Hung out with my friend Blake and our dogs got to hang out and run around the gym, and it was nice. I was just telling Blake this morning, how much I learned from you.

Michael Britt: Well, we learn from each other and encourage each other. So I mean, your curiosity, you know, sometimes makes me look stuff up. You ask me a question and I’m like, well, I don’t know that but I feel like I should. So hold the phone.

Maris Masellis: And you’ve taught me to do that to look it up. Michael Britt is a great resource, ladies and gentlemen, but you can look stuff up yourself. That’s how we all learn.

Michael Britt: Let us help you. Let Google help you. Or DuckDuckGo or whoever you want to use.

Maris Masellis: We’re so lucky. But it’s also a little weakening. You know, like, we have all these things at our fingertips and we still want more convenience. We still want it spoon fed to us. And that’s kind of the that’s a problem with recycling. That’s a problem with sustainability.

Michael Britt: Yeah, let’s let’s talk about plastic recycling while we’re at it, because your right, it’s like all this convenience that we’re paying for. So, you know, as a group as an organization, and I use that term loosely because it’s like the two of us with occasionally Jess and Jimmy or whoever else is helping us like Brandi and Evan Yeah, it’s it’s really just a handful people. We’re not a big organization

Maris Masellis: we got our crew and we love everybody that comes in and out and we’re still we’re still doing it. We’re still growing it.

Michael Britt: That’s right. So you know, we started off making recycling and composting videos right. That ended up being a changing target. We had you know, once once Nashville stopped accepting certain types of plastic in the the curbside recycling like the plastic clamshells Yeah, it just kind of brought everything to a screeching halt that we were talking about

Maris Masellis: It blew our minds

Michael Britt: It did and it made it it made all the stuff that we’re doing feel like oh, it’s all up in the air now how do we how do we make the right decisions?

Maris Masellis: But what’s funny is that was actually a step in the right direction that the rest of the country was probably already in as we learned through some of those videos, you sent me about recycling. Just because you think you can recycle it and throw it in the bin doesn’t mean it’s actually being recycled.

Michael Britt: And and what kind of has come out and talking to people which which, you know, we have to weigh what is or isn’t true or what the sources are is that Nashville may have never recycled, those clam shells. They just now clarified it. You know, they the the whole philosophy behind some of that is if we change it and then later, we’re able to do it, people are out of the habit and we want them to just do it anyway. And that’s their thinking. And all the rest of us are like, why are we wasting our time? You know, sorting, washing and putting things in that are gonna go in the landfill. That’s where people get mad

Maris Masellis: I’ve had so many people try to talk to me out of recycling. They’re like, well, Maris, why should I recycle? It’s not being recycled anyway. And I’m like, how do you know that? I don’t I just, I hear rumors that, especially with the Chinese ban with a National Sword, a lot of people took that as, and they were a little smarter than me at that time, because I didn’t really know what any of that was. I thought recycling is good. Recycling is what we need to do. And anyone who doesn’t, I don’t know what you’re doing. Like, but they were really thinking about it a little deeper than I than I even knew I didn’t know a lot of those things.

Michael Britt: I don’t know if it was deeper and I think sometimes people use like one little bit of information to justify Oh, you know, I was wrong. I didn’t need to recycle. You know, here, China’s not taking it. So I’m not going to bother. I think it justified people that didn’t want to recycle in the first place. That gave them a big justification and none of us trust for various reasons, what we’re told about how things are recycled or where they go. I don’t think the average person realized that most of our stuff was being shipped over to China. And actually, people are sorting it like slave labor to eke a little bit of recycling out the 2% that was actually recyclable,

Maris Masellis: right and those third world countries that are actually taking it illegally and hiding it and and getting money for it being paid for it. But having nowhere for it to go and then dumping it in their smaller communities and burning it and…

Michael Britt: yeah, I mean, that’s crazy, huh? Like, like The Story Plastic….

Maris Masellis: The Story of Plastic on Amazon, which Michael and I both watched really opened my eyes. I’ve already had some friends watch it, and I’ve been sending it to everybody. And I highly recommend it. It’s a little over an hour. And they just really open your eyes the different various talkers. narrator’s from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, we as Americans think we’ve got it all figured out. And how you know, I hear all the trash is all coming from these third world countries. We’re not even doing it. Blah, blah, blah. And then these, these documentaries show us where the trash is really coming from. It’s ours. It’s Our Trash!

Michael Britt: Wasn’t that shocking in the in the story plastic when they I mean, there are a lot of shocking things in that and I think everybody has to watch it. But one of the things I didn’t know I’d heard people use that term sachet before I’m like something they do in you know, Asian or African countries. I didn’t really get what a sachet was. And what…

Maris Masellis: did I miss that?

Michael Britt: I don’t know. But Okay, wait, yeah, you didn’t miss it, you probably just didn’t catch the name sachet in there. So basically, it’s the equivalent so because these poor markets, Africa and you know, some of these Asian countries that are emerging markets, the big companies, Unilever, you know, all of these companies are making their products that we use in the West that they put in shampoo bottles and, and things like that here. They’re making them in single use single serving (sachets) the equivalent of making every bath and beauty and cleaning product in a in a the equivalent of a ketchup packet that you get at a fast food restaurant. As the documentary pointed out, they’re charging like one and a half cents for a squirt of shampoo or squirt of soap. But the plastic that they’re dumping on these poor countries. They’re saying okay, you can afford to be like we are in the West here’s a product that only cost you one and a half cents and each day each of those people were using what 30 or 40 products like that from food products to everything in these sachets it’s single use single packets. Mm hmm not just not just single use plastic but single use single serving plastics. That’s crazy!

Maris Masellis: I was thinking to myself anytime I go out somewhere and this is what we’re kind of talking about, think of a ketchup packet. Think of a dressing that comes in a little packet. These millions of packets that we may or may not use, they have to go somewhere and they’re just not necessary at all.

Michael Britt: They’re not necessary and they’re made to not be recycled and then the these big companies so this is the other thing that was very clear from that documentary these these companies and we say petrochemicals you know it’s like petrol. Yeah petroleum plastic petrochemicals. Well Basically, that’s the fossil fuel companies. They’re the ones making plastic. So they’re taking the fuel subsidies that we pay as taxpayers to make sure that we have enough fuel in our country that’s affordable, and that can move ourselves around the country and move our economy. So we all pay subsidies to fossil fuel companies. And just to make sure that we have fuel available, well, they’ve taken these subsidies, and they’re using it to expand their plastics, production and distribution. That’s that’s not what that’s intended for. We’re paying fuel subsidies for fuel, not for expanding plastics. And the documentary said worldwide, that our Western petrochemical companies get over $5 trillion in subsidies and they’re just sinking that money into creating more and more plastic and looking for more and more markets. And then blaming us and cities and governments that it’s not recycled, or Oh, you guys should be doing better recycling. They’re blaming us and well wait a minute you’re creating these products that can’t be they virtually can’t be recycled. And it was clear they showed those people in India separating 83 different kinds of plastic into piles well that tells you right there that the one through seven number is bullshit. 1-7 but there’s 83?

Maris Masellis: The code system that was mind blowing where the journalist from the Frontline video that we watched

Michael Britt: That was on my to watch list before we talk and I didn’t make it. It’s okay. I blame my pineapple vodka drinks last night

Plastic Wars

Watch FRONTLINE and NPR’s investigation of the fight over the future of plastics.

Maris Masellis: It’s okay. Because you sent it to me and I’ve been on one. Alright, great. Yeah, I’ve been actually watching it over and over again because there’s so many statistics and facts that are really interesting, like that only 10% of recycling is actually recycled. And this journalist looks into every single aspect in the States and overseas. And she goes deep into the jungle with this thing. And it’s amazing how this recycling, you know, we think recycling is the answer. That’s what we’ve been fed by the same companies that have started this entire thing. And what she’s uncovered is repeating history. This has already been a problem. This has already been something Americans are very concerned about. And they have deviated our thoughts from reduce reuse, to recycling, which is a broken system, which is why people have lost faith in recycling in general and don’t want to do it or bother with it. Because people like you and I, we think, Okay, well, at least we’re doing something like maybe one percent of our recycling will be recycled. But we’re doing it because we do care. And we want to know what the next right thing is to do. And crazy enough, the next right thing to do is to avoid certain products that we can’t recycle. And that’s really hard for the consumer. When we don’t have many options. Everything’s covered in plastic and everything that we need to function. We don’t grow our own food, we have to go to the grocery store, then you’re looking at all these different grocery stores. Some stores are more expensive, but they give you it in bulk. For example, the Turnip Truck which we love, we’ll go there, you’re spending more money to get things that aren’t covered in plastic. They still do come in plastic, but they’re in bulk.

Michael Britt: And then look what happens with the pandemic and COVID then like we have fewer choices and more things are wrapped in plastic because people are worried about food safety. I found myself buying you know, I have a hard and fast rule. I’m not going to buy tomatoes in plastic unrecyclable hard plastic clam shells or grapes in those things or or you know, fruit…

Maris Masellis: It really limits you. You really have to have resources and I know that you’re a big fan of it White Squirrel Farms.

Michael Britt: Yeah white squirrel farms is where I get my CSA

Maris Masellis: and that’s what CSA vegetables

Michael Britt: That’s right. And you know, you just buy straight from the farmers. We’re lucky here in Tennessee. I feel lucky as as someone that can afford to buy straight from a farmer because you’re really paying the true cost of the vegetables and what you’re paying at the grocery store is not the true cost when you’re buying tomatoes. And they’re $1.10 a pound or $1.19 a pound or whatever. Those were grown on giant factory farms with slave labor picking them and we all just look the other way and they’re also by the way, grown for shipping and (to be) long lasting. You know something that lasts for shipping, not for flavor, so we’re all sacrificing our land to grow this stuff, the good farm jobs are being sacrificed. People are being exploited, the environments being ruined with pesticides and everyone goes, it’s okay. It’s

The Trouble With Tomatoes: Slave Labor (and That Cardboard Taste)

The tomato is in trouble. The tomatoes in Big Macs and Taco Bell tacos and in supermarkets, especially in the winter, all come from the same place: South Florida. “Tomatoland,” Barry Estabrook calls it-that’s the title of his new book. Those tomato fields are “ground zero for modern-day slavery”-that’s what the chief assistant US attorney there says.

Maris Masellis: That’s the thing is we’re blinded by convenience. We’re blinded by the marketing and advertising that these companies are putting out so that we think we’re doing something good. And there are things that are good going on there are, but it’s still blindsiding us to the things we really need to be paying attention to, which is mass consumption. We’re we’re just we’re a country that is already so far deep into that thinking into that way of life that we’re reversing it is the hardest concept for anyone that I’ve talked to about this. It’s not a 180 that we’re going to do today or tomorrow. They’re baby steps towards the ultimate goal but the awareness and the thinking is what is going to get us there.

Michael Britt: I think some of this that the pandemic has shown us is that this system is really broken from our food distribution to where we get our medical supplies and masks and to who controls what and where the money goes. I mean, you and I talked about, you know, I had explained what I’d read about, buybacks. Why all these these big companies are doing buybacks or had been doing buybacks, and then they’re standing in line for government handouts. And it turns out a buyback is where they buy their own shares and then they make them magically disappear so that there are fewer shares and it makes all the rest of the remaining shares worth more. So the people that profit the most or who own the most shares, which is like the board of directors, the main people involved and the big hedge funds, and people that are investing in those. Well, they use their profits to do that, instead of paying their employees better. instead of fixing their environmental problems, instead of saving for a rainy day or some unknown thing like a pandemic. So the airlines put 94% of their profits back into buybacks that just went in their own pockets. And then they’re saying, oh, we’re going broke. We need the government to bail us out. Well, you know, in 2008, everybody lost their job and lost their houses. The banks got bailed out and the people didn’t and took a long time to come back from that and we’re looking at the same kind of let’s protect the stock market and the really wealthy at the expense of the environment and poor people.

Maris Masellis: Whacked isn’t it! The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. And then there’s the middle man who works his ass off, or she works her butt off to do the right thing. And we we don’t know about these buybacks we don’t know about. This is the first time I’ve really become involved in any of these types of conversations and I’ve always been too scared to speak up because I felt ignorant. I felt I didn’t have a place at that table because I don’t know crap about it. And now I now I don’t care. I’ll say the most ignorant things because I want to learn and I want to know, and I’ll stick my head into anything, because that’s the only way that I’m going to learn. And that’s the only way that I’m not going to be ignorant and share this information with other people that are in my same position.

Michael Britt: In life, we can’t be experts on everything. Just like we can’t all be financial experts, and experts on plastics. I mean, I had no idea. I hadn’t really put it together that it’s exactly the fossil fuel companies that are the plastic companies. This isn’t people working in tandem. It’s the same people. And it’s a business and they run everything.

Maris Masellis: And they do run everything plastic is everywhere. So getting back to recycling though, what can we do? If the system is broken? If the rich keep getting richer and keep putting more money into the things that are making us sink, in trash, literally choke and trash

Michael Britt: choking us in our food, in everything

Maris Masellis: We don’t see it. We don’t see it unless you live somewhere like the people in the Philippines in Manila. They have trash coming into the bay that never leaves because it gets stuck there and no matter what they do, they can’t get rid of it. It’s in their faces, day after day after day. And there was a quote from one of them. That said, there’s no amount of cleanups that we’re going to be able to do to save us. This has to be at the root of the cause, which is legislation, which is having people in the right seats, making those choices for us and voting for them and making sure that we have those people to vote for. At this point. I feel pretty helpless. And that’s something that I struggled with from the very beginning when I met you I thought, Well, okay, we’re all doomed. What’s the point? I don’t want to do this. I don’t care. And then I was like, Ah, no, that’s not the way we’re gonna fix anything. Come on Maris. And that’s when we started to research. And when I met you, you’ve introduced me to a whole bunch of different ideas. And now here we are, and we’re talking about the solutions. We’re talking about the system that most people don’t understand, and don’t even know how to start recycling because it’s so confusing. And that’s because the company’s making all these plastics and things. They’re not regulating it. They’re not making it consistent. They’re not using materials that are that are easily recycled. They’re making it confusing. We’re having to struggle with this.

There’s no amount of cleanups that we’re going to be able to do to save us

Frontline/PBS Plastic Wars

Michael Britt: That’s the answer, that it takes legislation. Right now, oil is at a negative cost per barrel. You and I were talking about that also, that almost blows your mind. Like how can

Maris Masellis: How does that even happen?

Michael Britt: Because oil keeps gushing and the production has kept rolling, and they’re filling the super tankers that are out the sea. There’s a map I saw the day that showed how many oil super tankers are sitting out at sea with nowhere to unload their oil. So all these barrels and tankers full of oil are (continuously) being produced, but we suddenly came to a screeching halt of how much oil we’re using. It has to go somewhere so they’re paying people to take it. So right now, there’s no way the people making plastics are going to be tapping into the recycle market where they have to pay a fee to get the recycled material to make new plastics when they’re being paid to use oil. So I’d like to talk to Stephanie (Baker) from KW plastics and I’d like to check in with her and see where they’re at with that. Because as you know from the video on our website, she told us, that most cities and places there’s only really the one and two is that are the types of plastic that get recycled, right? And they do number five KW plastics, which is the yogurt tubs.

13 stunning photos of supertankers and storage tanks reveal the global oil glut in epic proportions

The tankers were carrying more than 20 million barrels of crude oil, making it the largest quantity of crude ever to float off the West Coast, according to Kpler, a company that tracks oil storage. Oil tankers are typically used to transport – not store – oil.

Maris Masellis: Side note: the codes I learned in either one of those videos, I think it was the one that you haven’t watched yet from Frontline. Just because the chasing arrow sign symbol the triangle is on something does not mean that it’s recyclable, which is mind blowing. It was only for the companies to say what kind of plastic it is and help people understand that. We don’t need to know that. What we need to know is what goes where and that was completely misleading and confusing. And people thought, Oh, well, this little triangle means it’s recyclable. And I actually was very confused. But I was like, you’re right. Why is that? It’s not true. It’s just a coding system to say what kind of plastic it is. And that’s it.

Michael Britt: It’s a coding system that self regulated by their own industry. There’s no government oversight. And as we were talking about earlier, you know, they have their numbers one through seven, yet we’re watching that video where they’re sorting 83 different kinds of plastics in India. So what’s the deal why do we have one through seven when there’s really 83

Plastics by the Numbers

The well-recognized “chasing arrows” symbol we see on plastic containers and products does not mean the product is recyclable. The little number inside the triangle tells the real story. Within each chasing arrows triangle, there is a number which ranges from one to seven.

Maris Masellis: laws, man, we need some laws.

Michael Britt: And this is where I’m getting at is you have to make the company’s, you have to say you can’t just keep dumping this stuff onto our society and not giving us a choice. Like when you and I choose to not buy plastic bottles of shampoo, we have the option and we have the funds and we go down to Megan at The Good Fill. Luckily we have a store we can do that. Everybody out there doesn’t have that opportunity or that store. Those are very, that’s a very small percentage, right? And so you have to give the consumers a choice and by giving us a choice, they have to be forced. Germany’s done this, by the way. That’s Yeah, I wrote something out here. Germany did it in 1991 right. So here’s what they did The German packaging ordinance. In 1991 it required manufacturers to take responsibility for the recycling of their product packaging after a consumer was finished using it. This included the transportation packaging, like the box around soda cans, the primary packaging the can itself, everything. Okay, so that started for them in 1991. And then in 1996, they added that any one that produces markets or consumes goods it dictates that they’re responsible for the materials reuse, recycling, or environmentally sound disposal. So they if you make something or sell something in Germany, and all these American companies do, they have to abide by those laws, they make packaging that is less complex, less layered, easier to recycle, they’re forced to take it back. And the rates of recycling Germany are over 70% (transcript correction: 66%)

Germany: A Recycling Program That Actually Works

In 2009, President Obama was inaugurated, Facebook had 360 million users, and the iPhone was still a rather new invention. In 2017, President Trump was inaugurated, Facebook has hit 2 billion users, and we have a robot that disassembles old iPhones for recycling. The world has changed quite a bit.

Maris Masellis: Wow. But it works there, Germany, I’m thinking, so I had a conversation with my friend Blake this morning about packaging for protein products. I love to work out. I have some supplements. And over time I’ve had less and less because I know that the packaging is not recyclable. So it’s very hard for me to buy things that I know aren’t recyclable. And we were having that conversation this morning. And I said, Why don’t you talk to your brand, and see if they can have some kind of program, it would be cutting edge. If you don’t know where it’s going, if you know that you can’t take it back, don’t make it. And I know that’s really tough for the market. But as consumers if we want the product, we have to figure out what to do with it (the packaging). And if we don’t know what to do with it, then it’s just going straight into the landfill. Companies need to have that responsibility to figure out what they’re doing before the process. After the process is too late

Michael Britt: Yes. Like Megan said last time, you know that a good portion of the environmental impact from a product is in the design and and manufacturing stage. So they need to figure all that out on their end, right. It makes so much sense to us all, except for the people that are running things, they say, Oh, we can’t afford it. Yet they turn around and do buybacks and they’re enriching themselves to be the richest people in our societies.

Maris Masellis: And that’s not that’s not everyone, but it’s a good it’s a good portion of the companies, especially the ones that are most popular and making the most money. So

Michael Britt: You’re talking about how we don’t see it. You know, who does see it and I think we need to do this. I’ll commit to us doing this as a future podcast episode. I was wondering what do you think the people that live near the landfill here think? How do they feel? Can you imagine the trash that’s from Davidson County, they (the local landfill) takes from three big counties. That’s got to be trash trucks lined up and down the roads going by their bucolic farms every day

Maris Masellis: When I was thinking about that during the documentaries, too, it’s for those families that live next to these plants, and they live next to the garbage. They’re suffering, you have nowhere to go. They they’re dying of respiratory diseases and, you know, cancers, their water, they can’t drink their water, they have to all use bottled water, which is only contributing to the problem. And they have no control. They just have to sit there and basically take it and die. Because…

Michael Britt: Yeah, it’s crazy. And because of that, here in Tennessee, they enacted a law because people were complaining that the community has to approve a dump site, a new dump site. So you know, Nashville dump is filling up and they’re saying, you know, probably what, four years five years from now, it’ll be it’ll be done. So when that fills up, the next one is going to probably be in Kentucky, because Tennesseans can say we don’t want to dump here. So we’re basically gonna say, Hey, thanks Kentucky, here’s our here’s our crap.

Maris Masellis: It’s the same thing in the entire process. We gave it to China, like all the other you know people that were giving it to China, we just we get rid of it. And one of the documentaries, I believe it is the the front line, they go to Indonesia, and this journalist goes Indonesia and what they’re doing is they’re looking to see where this trash is going. There was talk about them having even more of a problem with contaminated plastic waste. As much as narcotics were being smuggled into their country. It was that big of a deal. And what they’re doing is they’re taking the trash, they’re getting money for it, they have nowhere for it to go and then they’re just putting it into the communities with these innocent people. Same thing, people that have no control and they’re just trashing it. The people are waking up the next morning and like there’s tons and tons of trash and trash in their front yards. No idea where it came from. They’ve got to deal with it.

Michael Britt: And they get terrorized if they try to fight it, and and frankly, you know, we saw that in that documentary but I have lived near refinery actually. And as a as a kid I had severe asthma probably as a result of it. I remember our dog got shot, because he was playing in the yard of one of an employee for the petrochemical plant and there’s some sort of dispute and thugs came over and they thought they’re shooting his dog. But what’s fascinating though, when you’re watching the story of plastic, that’s one of the techniques that woman who was speaking out, they shot her dog. So they’ve been doing this intimidation for a long time. It’s not just those communities far away. It’s if you live here in America, you could be being strong armed and they’re saying we’re gonna dump our stuff on you. We’re gonna pollute your air and water and you just have to shut up or we’re gonna kill you.

Maris Masellis: People that you love and that is real shit. It’s not in the movies, folks. That’s where they get the ideas for these movies. Okay, it’s real life. It really happens.

Michael Britt: We need to all be John Wick, right? No Okay, first of all they’re awesome movies. They’re very fun. Nicolas Cage. No, no, no, Keanu Reeves. But basically the way it starts is he’s this Hitman. He’s a hitman that is out of the business. He fell in love and has a puppy that his wife gave him right before she died of cancer. These thugs kill his dog and that starts this killing spree where he’s just killing the whole world that messed with his dog.

Maris Masellis: Oh that’s John Wick

Michael Britt: Actually, I saw a post the other day of him holding a shirt up because you know, I do the animal rescue stuff too and it showed up on one of the animal rescue feeds and it said “Don’t mess with dogs or I’ll shoot you”

Michael Britt: We just all need to be John Wick

Maris Masellis: I love that! He’s an inspiration now I’ll watch all the John Wicks movies

Michael Britt: It’s good we just need to focus his energy on on fighting plastics petrochemical companies

Maris Masellis: Maybe that’ll be like one of our hashtags don’t don’t mess with recycling or we’ll shoot you.

Michael Britt: We’ll shoot our mouth off

Maris Masellis: It’s already going. The war is started!

Michael Britt: So here’s what I keep coming back to. Is it even worth it? So here’s my thought process right now. A lot of organic waste being dumped in the (landfill). It’s anywhere from 21% to 40%

Maris Masellis: Organic waste meaning food?

Michael Britt: Yes, you know, even even the pizza boxes that have been contaminated with oil, yeah, all that kind of stuff that can be composted, but not recycled. I think that number is somewhere for Nashville somewhere around 40%. And and if recycling is broken and no one’s buying the feedstock that’s made from the few things that they actually collect; and the whole city is shoving everything in their recycling containers that has nothing to do with what is sellable or recyclable because they don’t know and they’ve been confused, right? You know we’re hitting all these budget cuts more than likely? Yeah. What if we just stopped doing recycling right now because it’s broken? And I know it’s like, oh, no, we can’t not do recycling. But what if we stopped doing recycling and just started doing curbside compost? We put all the resources of money into that because it works. We have the system in place here in Nashville

Maris Masellis: Right? So one thing most people don’t know a whole lot about is Composting. Every time I mentioned it, it’s like, oh, no, what is that? That’s too much for me. I can’t do that. And it’s really not though. Pretty simple. To take all the stuff that came from the earth and you put it together and you put it back into the earth and there are places like Compost Nashville that pick up your compost outside your residence or The Compost Company, that giant facility in Ashland City. We’ve got the resources folks, we can compost and we can compost well.

Michael Britt: yeah and it’s not a big deal. I both keep my compost in our freezer and take it out once a week and take it to the Convenience Center off of Trinity Lane

Maris Masellis: They recently gave us a bigger dumpster because every time I went over there all four cans were full and I would take a video and tag them on my Instagram and say hey guys, when are you coming in to pick up? They’re really great at you know, they’re one company right now, that’s our main resource for compost. We have Compost Nashville and Compost Company, but they’re doing a great job we we need to increase education. That’s the one thing that Turnip Green Creative Reuse works with Metro and they do some classes but again, we’ve learned as community members that it’s not necessarily enough, We’ve got to reach more people with this type of thing. They had a class that was really for anyone from you know, you could be a child or you could be our age, your age you know hundred, Just kidding. And go into this class and it’s it’s decent, gives you a little to start with but if you’re an adult and you’re really interested, there are other resources Tennessee Environmental Council have some composting info. We even posted a video on our website, but your idea of going into compost. Maybe that’s a solution to the broken recycling system which I hear you and I don’t know if it would be beneficial to take out all recycling maybe what we have right now. But we’re here to tell people that you can’t recycle everything. That’s what we don’t know.

Composting Tips

Michael Britt: And, and here’s the deal. It’s the same thing happened when, you know how mad everyone was and how up in arms everyone was that they couldn’t recycle plastic clamshell containers anymore? What do you mean? We can’t recycle our takeout containers!

Maris Masellis: That was actually a thing

Michael Britt: Yeah, I heard I heard a response from people that I know and that know better saying, Oh, I’m gonna do it anyway, I’m gonna put it in anyway. And it’s really so this is what would happen if we said okay, we’re taking away recycling because it’s broken, everyone would be so up in arms. They’d be like, nooo, we want more recycling. But it doesn’t work. Only 2% is being recycled only about 2% is being recycled

More and More, America’s Recyclable Plastic Is Being Burned, Not Recycled

Americans dutifully separate, sort and haul recyclables to the curb under the assumption that our bottles, cans and accumulated junk mail will avoid being landfilled and instead go somewhere to become something new.

Maris Masellis: We’ve been brainwashed people! We have been brainwashed to think that recycling is the answer. It’s not. And unfortunately, Michael and I are both very big supporters of recycling because it’s something we can do at this point, but it’s not the answer. We’ve learned way too much over this last year. And myself. I’d never composted before this last year. And here I am talking on a podcast with you about all sorts of way more intricate ideas than I would have ever thought and it’s not As long as people are interested and open to the ideas, recycling is not the end all be all, and we have to find a different way. So here we are.

Michael Britt: Yeah. And and if you say you can’t recycle that, okay, there never was gonna be mad. But also it’s gonna make everyone as you buy something at the store and you’re, you know, not straighted it’s not gonna straight it like, why should I be buying this? Because I can’t recycle it because we don’t do any recycling. Right? And it makes you think, well, we can’t do the recycling because it wasn’t working. So it was all fake anyway, it’s not fake. People like kW plastics are doing great. But yes, that 2% number that 2% let’s go back to what you were saying that the documentary said 10% of the plastics good. Only 2% of plastic of all the plastics ever made, have been made back into something useful, like a bottle made into a bottle. Everything else was down cycled, and it’s made into less useful items. And even even in the best case scenario, you take a bottle you make a bottle. That’s it. It’s done being recycled. The next one goes in the trash. It can’t plastic can be recycled over and over and over again. There is no, yeah, there is no way and there’s your if at the best case scenario, you have 2% being made back into useful items and then that 2% then just goes back into the landfill later. There’s nothing wrong

Maris Masellis: that we’re not saying that to discourage anyone because we want you to know the truth, which was something that we’re finding out and yet hurts. It stings. It’s kind of like, Okay, well screw it. I don’t, what are we supposed to do? This is what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to talk about it. We’re supposed to talk about with more and more people. And sooner or later the legislation is going to also be on our side, because we’re not going to let down and we’re going to push for this. It’s gonna it’s got to start with the companies that are creating this stuff, but how do we get heard talk about it, continue to ask questions, continue to ask store managers and restaurant owners and people that might not be the enemy. They’re not the enemy because we all are in this together. But if we are able to open our mouths, and even set the example, I have a very dear friend of mine. They just watched the movie with me the other day. And he went to a restaurant recently Finally, and and was served multiple drinks with straws in them. And he, he finally was like, sir, you have to give everyone a straw is that policy? And he’s like, Well, no, but I just figured it’s just a habit. And he opened his mouth. He said something and that server said, You know what? I’ve heard about compostable stuff. I’m going to talk to my manager about it. It just takes one person to say something in Don’t. Don’t feel like you have to come down on anybody asked the question, say, I don’t really know about this. But is this something that you can change or have any kind of saying, maybe it’s just one drop in the bucket? That’s all we can do right now. But people like Michael and I are willing to go out and fight for this type of thing. And that’s why we’re doing these podcasts is to give you Some knowledge that you didn’t have before and to get you thinking about where can you change something in your everyday life Where can you just tweak something and make make that change go a little bit farther tell somebody about it or talk about it. Recycling is a broken system we know that we know our landfills filling up, we know that Composting is here and we can use it and if you want to know more about it, you can easily get on Google you can easily go to our website and type in zero waste trash.com and there are videos there that myself and Jess walk through that was the first time we made any videos that’s so amazing and I barely know anything I didn’t know what dry compost or what compost was. I don’t know what any of that stuff was. But we go through it and we’ll continue to go through it. But um, I highly recommend to watch the story of plastic on Amazon if he can spare three bucks.

Michael Britt: And let us know if you if if our listeners if you guys want you know all three of you. No, just kidding. We actually we have two listeners. If If, if if you guys if if the group and our Nashville Zero Waste group and our Zero Waste trash talk followers, we can get codes to host a screening that’s free of the story of plastic online. And they ask that if you do it as a group then you host like a zoom meetup event and talk about it and discuss it afterwards. So why don’t you hit us up on our socials you can hit us either a zero waste Nashville face, Facebook group, or a zero waste trash talk or just DMS and Instagram Zero Waste trash talk. You I’m even paying attention to Twitter now so you can you can

Maris Masellis: see he’s making Yeah,

Michael Britt: I am. I’m trying to like be better about all of that even though I’ve never liked it very much. But hey, we’re on it. We’re paying attention now. You can reach us on Twitter at z w trash talk. That’s the only one that’s different because Twitter has a limit on numbers.

Maris Masellis: And I know we’re gonna go through this probably with with john. We do have a guest john Hawkins coming on the show to talk about his experience with recycling. So he was a recycling business owner. He is no longer but he was.

Michael Britt: No and I met john through Zero Waste Nashville. I was actually one of my neighbors whose contractor had done a remodel job in this household was he saw, they’re getting rid of a giant stack of perfectly good dog beds. And he knew I did the zero waste stuff. So you know, this is how you and I end up with.

Maris Masellis: Okay, I know. Yeah.

Michael Britt: So so you know, my friend Adam brought over those dog beds and I put it out on Zero Waste trash talk, or actually zero waste, Nashville, anybody who wants one, let me know. And john came over to get one and while he was here, we started talking about what he did and, and he had just kind of felt a little dejected, that he didn’t think recycling was working. And so we had this long conversation about you know, how, how do we make it work? How should we all move forward, what’s going on and So that’s why I said, Let’s bring him on and talk about this. He’s somebody who’s lived it from that, that side of the recycling side. I’m really excited. So we’ll bring him up next.

Maris Masellis: But I think if you’re listening now, the takeaways here would be first and foremost, which we didn’t say, you cannot bag your recyclables. You cannot put your recycling in a bag, because the place that separates the otherwise known as murf MRF,

Michael Britt: the sorting material, material Recovery Facility,

Maris Masellis: material Recovery Facility. Thank you, Michael. They don’t have the resources, the time to take your stuff out of the bag and separate it. So if it’s in the bag, it’s considered contamination and it’s going straight to the landfill. They’re not even going to open it up. They’re not going to look in there and see what’s in there.

Michael Britt: It cracks me up people are like you bothered to crush cans, and to collect this big giant garbage sack full of cans and you get to the recycling center and it says no bags and you’re like Did my partner throw the bag in anyway? Like what’s the point? Why did you even bother crushing the Kansas saving the cans if at the last stage

Maris Masellis: or the rules? I in bagged some stuff last time I was at the end at the center?

Michael Britt: Yeah, I mean it just because it’s hard to it’s disheartening to you’re always diving in dumpsters

Maris Masellis: and getting in the dumpsters people God, if that’s how you’re fine me.

Michael Britt: But let’s let’s make so let’s make a definite here’s here’s a takeaway, you know it’s like what can we do as individuals you know we talked with Megan last week about being able to buy products that have less you know, plastic Well, we’ll do that pick one product. We assume if you’re listening to this podcast, you already aren’t drinking out of plastic water bottles, right? We use this. If you are that’s the very first thing to do. Stop, just stop. Just stop that just get a reusable water bottle and fill it up.

Maris Masellis: I use a Britta here because Brittany can’t recycle. That’s another thing you have to look into is how to recycle the little bit. heart that actually filters everything, the water

Michael Britt: there, there’s there’s not a lot of really good ways to recycle to filter water the that are practical and that can be recycled or disposed of properly. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it works. Yeah. There’s there’s a couple and maybe we’ll cover some of that at some point in the future. But you know, it’s back to choose your bottles Do you want like, literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of plastic bottles every year, which by

Maris Masellis: the way, are not the answer.

Michael Britt: And I read a statistic the other day, the average family spends 1200 dollars a year on plastic water bottles. It’s very, so that’s a vacation. That’s a vacation

Maris Masellis: my mom growing up she would refill glass water bottles. So we had like our Beretta and then we would refill glass water models and man, I think she’s had the same ones for probably over 15 years and truly, we have the same water bottles when I was in high school. There’s still there. And that’s again Great step towards sustainability. Don’t buy it if you don’t need it, take your reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. Maybe have to give some away as gifts,

Michael Britt: startup hoard them.

Maris Masellis: Now, you don’t need more than they need, you know, I’ve done it because I need them wherever I go, I work out a lot and I bring them to the gym and I bring them in my car and but it’s funny because back in the day, I would love getting that Fiji water bottle or that like classy if Evian water bottle and think man, I look cool. I got this like name, brand name brand, water bottle. And now I’m like, ah, I can’t even look at it. Why we don’t need it. It’s not that we don’t need

Michael Britt: it. I gotta tell you here. Here’s something you know about the practical side. Well, there’s two. Here’s something to know about me. In high school, I was working at a grocery store, Safeway in the 80s and it was a good job and I saw this interview option of selling water and bottles as you know first we started getting the two liter Pepsi and Coke bottles and plastic I’m like I don’t want to drink out plastic and it’s flat quicker and and i actually I taste plastic I have this I can if a if a piece of cheese is wrapped has been sold wrapped in saran wrap. I taste saran wrap on that cheese same with a sandwich. So I’ve never been big on plastic wrapping any superpower. it well. Yeah, it just it’s Yeah. It’s terrible tasting. I can taste it. You buy it. I used to buy some expensive cheesy rapid saran wrap But no, no, let’s do it now. But so I I never really was part of this. I had to use plastic water bottles because I just wasn’t in the sight guy. So when I worked on movies for 10 years, I was a photographer on movie sets and we used a lot of water bottles and I and you know, I look back and I think I could have been more aware. But overall I was appalled. I’m like they’re selling us water. It costs like, like, like what a soda does almost or whatever or it’s like water from the tap. It is but when they start selling when they start selling water, it’s like that’s like selling snake oil. It’s like okay, we all get free water and you can filter it for very inexpensively you’re

Maris Masellis: gonna be selling us air.

Michael Britt: Well, yeah, you’re right. I mean, you saw in that documentary story plastic is like we don’t those these poor countries don’t need all these sachets. They’re like taking away other options and flooding the market with that and convincing the people they need it. And and so So the takeaway here I’d like let’s just stop everybody pick one thing like, like for us, both of us and we hadn’t until Megan introduced us we didn’t know about tooth tablets. And we’re like trying to figure out how to recycle and if buying the right toothpaste that’s maybe in a tube that can be recycled if you totally clean it. And so we moved to the two tablets and there’s no plastic and or shampoo bar, you know, bar soap shampoo. bar soap moved to a bar or to tablet or something like that, that’s not wrapped in plastic. You can even buy stuff like that at Target now you can buy shampoo bars you can buy, you know maybe wrapped in

Maris Masellis: wrapped in anything.

Michael Britt: No and and also think about when you’re buying a shampoo bar like Megan said 90% of the bottle, this plastic bottle that’s that’s being sold and shipped to you is full of water. So if you take all the water out, it leaves you with this bar soap or shampoo bar or something like that. So it’s interesting what the toothpaste the tablets, you bite into them and it takes a little bit to get used to. It’s not the same with toothpaste. It’s like a baking soda kind of thing. But

Maris Masellis: if you’re used to overdoing it with your toothpaste, you’ll realize how much toothpaste you’re actually using. That’s not necessary. But yeah,

Michael Britt: that that those commercials will they pile it on the tooth you know? Like it’s like it’s that makes me want a guy. Yeah, I guess they call that to faith in my mouth.

Maris Masellis: But yeah, pick one. Pick thing, and that’ll be our, that’ll be and then once you’re good at that pick another thing. And sure somebody I bought my mom, some beeswax wraps from Megan’s good, the good Phil. And she loved them. I was I went to her school and I showed all of her kids. She’s a teacher, and she let me have about 10 minutes in her classes, to let them know that there are things that exist like this. And little things. Watching her water when you’re brushing your teeth is another one. How much water do you use when you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower? energy is important. Water is important. So there’s a lot of different ways that you can cut down but for the sake of recycling and plastic. Let’s try and go to the package free stores like the good Phil, let’s try and really make it make an effort to research things that we’re not sure about. I’m still researching stuff with Invisalign. I posted a thing today and none of the trends I’ve used our recyclable, it was heartbreaking when I found that out in the very beginning of my journey with them. And every time I saw my dentist, I would say something to her about it. Did you talk to them yet? Did you talk to anybody yet? And as we were doing this podcast, I saw them on the corner of my computer Invisalign has commented on your post. So I’m really excited to see what what they said on my post because I called them out and I

Michael Britt: said, let’s see. Okay, go ahead. Let’s check it out.

Maris Masellis: Let’s just do that real quick.

Michael Britt: The other thing is as we move forward, well, Maris look at that as we move forward. We talked about all these these option choices a little legislation Do we need to establish just to rebuild society like we want to after this pandemic, the powers that be want us distracted and barely have our heads above water and we grab on to their plastic life rafts and things like that. We don’t have to They want us to be distracted and they want they want us to be. I mean working low wage jobs and struggling so that we think oh, that’s a luxury environments and luxury. Recycling’s a luxury. Luxury composts things a luxury, I can’t do that I’m barely surviving and that that’s where they want you. So don’t accept that as we move forward. And as as obviously the government’s just printing literally trillions of dollars and giving it to their friends and letting us have I read something the other day, by the way, this the the 1200 dollar check that we all get. That’s great. So far, the economic stimulus packages cost every household $18,000 in future taxes, and you got 1200 dollars of that. So we just paid 80 we’re all like, Hey, we got a stimulus check. You got you got an $18,000 tax bill that went to fossil fuel companies. And it went to airlines that have sunk in their profits into making themselves more money instead of making their company stronger. That whole fiscal responsibility they’re responsible to, to keep their company strong and you know, hospitals not having enough protective gear, all of this stuff. It’s like, Oh, that’s too expensive hospitals are for profit. Well, let’s rebuild this world like we want and let’s not let them distract us.

Maris Masellis: Hell Yana that, Cheers to that, and I’ve got the response, I said Invisalign. Why are you creating a plastic tray that cannot be recycled and I talked about how excited I was to start and then sadly disappointed to know that none of my 40 trays I had to change them every week were recyclable. And not only that, it came in boxes that came in individually wrapped bags that came into boxes that came in more bags. And when I just when I got all this stuff, I was like, Why in the world is all this coming to me. It’s all trash, all of it. Side note, when you’re out. You don’t need The bag, tell them you don’t need to bag, give it back whatever it is that is extra in there, the packaging, just give it back, you know, let them know I don’t need this. You can use this for the next person or maybe everyone starts returning them in the they don’t need to buy them anymore and that saves the company a lot of money, whatever. Set a lot of neuroscientists today, Invisalign says to me, hi Maris, we appreciate your feedback on this important topic. The plastic used in Invisalign aligners is medical grade plastic. And once the aligners have been worn by patients they are considered medical waste cannot be recycled like household plastic. We are piloting a recycling program to retrieve used aligners from our doctor, customers and their patients. The aligners we get back are incinerated and used to produce energy. However, this option is not yet available through all offices. Please connect with your doctor or other Waste Management Department for recommendations regarding your current disposal options for this item in your area.

Michael Britt: It’s up to you just like the fossil fuel. But it’s like it’s plastic trees, the recycling Our product is up to you. That’s but that’s what that just said, hockey are dentists deal with it yourself, you know and you know what I would do Maris I would box out you saved all that I just box it all up put a put a sticker on it and mail it back to them. Say, here you go. Here’s your trash. I don’t want it. It’s not recyclable. I blame you for an hour, you know? Yeah, I think if we all start dumping their trash back, then yeah, if I were you I’d mail it back to. So

Maris Masellis: I think I might just do that, to be honest with you. Because that’s the only thing that I can do at this point. I’m going to talk to my doctor about it. She was under the impression that they’re made out of so many different plastics that they couldn’t recycle them and even when they’re incinerated to produce energy, wasn’t that

Michael Britt: Oh, yeah, that’s right. Oh, it well. It’s not a crock at work. It’s a way to get rid of plastic and it burns great, but it also adds all of those contaminants to the air. It’s toxic,

Maris Masellis: producing energy.

Michael Britt: It does well. Okay, wait Like energy, the energy production, we should have a whole conversation about that. But ultimately, always to make energy is just heating stuff up to boil water to spin fans. That’s what makes electricity turbines. That’s all it is. Like, if it’s like if you put a spinner on the top of a teapot that had copper coils around it, as it spins, it generates electricity, nuclear these giant nuclear plants, all they’re doing is using nuclear power to boil water. That’s it. Wow. smokestacks when they’re burning plastic, they’re taking the heat of that they’re boiling water. They’re spinning turbines. Yep. They’re creating heat to boil water to spin turbines. So

Maris Masellis: yeah, well, you know, in plastic that’s never good.

Michael Britt: It’s never and, and, and when they say, Oh, this is a medical, you know, and and it’s like they choose what Yeah, okay, you know, maybe there’s laws against medical waste, and I’m sure there is, even though there are plenty of stupid people throwing their gloves. And mask I see medical waste I saw it all over the park today by the duck pond like people there’s who’s taking their masks and their gloves off and just throwing them on the ground for someone else to deal with their their real good pot yeah I haven’t you seen that like grocery store parking lots everyone just goes to their car takes their stuff off throws it on the ground gets

Maris Masellis: in there is the trash I’m still picking it up but I did have that fleeting idea or that thought that was like don’t pick that up there’s

Michael Britt: Oh, I can’t stop the car so I stopped let’s see I can pick up trash trash no no early on in this I bent down and picked up a cannon someone’s there the can their drink can on the side of the Greenway. And I it was right it probably like you know, second week of March this is all just kind of all suddenly become real to all of us. And I bent down absentmindedly reached picked it up and my finger went into the mouth hole. And as I did that, I thought yeah, I can’t do this anymore. And so I made a rule and it’s really hard. I have stopped picking up trash when I see it. The other day I broke that rule because I saw someone 10 feet from the garbage can they left their dog poop bag tied and lay, there’s 10 feet away.

Maris Masellis: We gotta go. We got to tell you about the dog poop another day, but

Michael Britt: I got some ideas on that. So yeah, I picked this up to get rid of it. And I tell her, okay, I’m touching this one, even though I shouldn’t. And remind me I’ll get to the car and I’ll use hand sanitizer and you know, life. Yeah, so it was my wife. And we we got back to the car I forgot. And then we came back in the house and I’m like, oh, man, that now the doorknobs potentially contaminated the keys, my wallet, my phone that I gotta start cleaning everything because I picked up a piece of trash. And it breaks my heart to leave trash laying on the ground. Like who? Who’s who throws trash on the ground. You like who just says this is so unimportant that I’m just gonna throw it in the ground. I mean, I don’t that mentality I just don’t understand.

Maris Masellis: Oh yeah, it’s pretty bad where I live to. There’s a complex apartment complex on the east side where I live. And when I first moved here, I thought, oh my god, I’m gonna be out here picking up trash every single day. To the point of I fell in a pricker bush. There’s a whole sling of really amazing stories of me picking up trash and hurting myself.

Michael Britt: And my mom photos.

Maris Masellis: Yeah, I

Maris Masellis: just long story short, I tried to pick trash out of a very sharp edged bush with a lot of very sharp leaves, and I fell into the bush and covered myself and bled It was great. It was great. I looked around I was like, good no one saw me do that. didn’t stop me from picking up trash. But for a while, I had some scars and scrapes on me and they’re like, what happened to you? Like, just don’t worry about it.

Michael Britt: I’m dedicated your battle wounds, your battle wounds.

Maris Masellis: were driven. And we know that you guys are too so if you’re listening today, we want to say keep doing the good work. Keep doing the planet’s work. And whereas you’re always trash talk and we’re gonna keep talking trash. So if you have any questions if you have any ideas, please don’t. Don’t not what am I trying to say?

Michael Britt: Don’t hesitate,

Maris Masellis: don’t hesitate. Thank you. I’m working on my verbiage here my vocabulary in this podcast too. I’m like, I don’t know that many words.

Michael Britt: Well, all right, well, let’s let’s break and then we’re gonna bring in john and talk to him about his experience. In

John Hawkins: reality,

John Hawkins: make

John Hawkins: it every part and peace

John Hawkins: makes a lot of dollars.

Maris Masellis: What’s up everybody. Now we’re back and I’m meris. That’s my goal. And we have john hopkins as our guest for the recycling portion. We’re going to talk to him a little bit about what he’s gone through in Nashville and his recycling journey. But first, let’s clarify our previous conversation. We discussed the new documentary The story of plastics, and we want everybody to watch that. Absolutely. It’s a great thing. I think everyone needs to watch and then we also kind of said since recycling was broken, we shouldn’t do it which Okay, that deserves a little bit of a pass to if I’m not mistaken, Michael actually, probably. I think he mentioned armed insurrection. john wick style, again, petrochemical companies.

Michael Britt: Yeah, maybe we should clarify a little bit.

Maris Masellis: didn’t really mean that is what we Want to say? But you know, we get worked up over here and we joke a lot too. We’re trash talks. That’s what we do. But um, john, welcome to the show. So happy you’re here. Thank you for having me. Appreciate that. Yeah. So um, so yeah. Tell me a little bit about how, you know, you got to meet Michael first. This is the first time we’re meeting ever, but I know Yeah, a few times.

John Hawkins: I guess I came across the zero waste Facebook group in Nashville sometime last year, and started following you guys. And then I think Michael had a post for a dog bed. And I have a dog and there’s there were several dog beds and whenever there and last year up until February of this year, I was working with a small waste diversion company called eternal returns. That handles composted food waste, and also Recycling, recyclable materials for local businesses and, you know, takes them to their respective vendors. And I did sales for them for about a year and a half. And anyway, I met Michael and we’d started talking talking about zero waste.

Maris Masellis: What was the sales? What was the sales part like with a with that with eternal

John Hawkins: I think sales gears itself to being a very extroverted individual and I’m more of an introvert extroverted introvert, so I can do it it’s not it’s not my forte it’s not my strong suit. I would say I’m great one on one with people and enjoy talking with people but you know, putting myself out there and facing rejection constantly. It’s tough.

Maris Masellis: So are you are passionate about what you’re doing right? Because that was, that was the whole point.

Maris Masellis: to recycle into compost and to use your services, which are for the improvement of society,

Michael Britt: you’re doing it for like bigger stores, like Whole Foods and places like that right or,

John Hawkins: yeah, so when I came on, I guess in the fall, late summer, early fall of 2018, they had about, I don’t know, eight or eight or nine customers, so it’s pretty small business. And that’s one facet of their business. So they do construction, they do a few other things. Home good materials and build furniture and that type of thing. But uh, the it’s originally started as a waste diversion company because Keegan, the founder, used to work at Whole Foods and they he had a truck and so they asked him Did he want to take the glass to you know, the recycling facility because they didn’t have a vendor for glass, which most places don’t in Nashville. So he started doing that. And then he got another store. And then it just kind of grew and he got a bigger truck and hired a driver and then just kind of sat on it for several years. And then before I was working with Keegan that I guess earlier that summer I in in that fall, in that spring, I had worked with doing was sort of organizing Zero Waste events with by my own. I guess my own volition, I did a leadership class in the spring of 2018. And one part of the leadership class was to do a community project and I’m passionate about waste. So I did, I wanted to create a waste free event. So I worked with small Hello festival, movie festival movies in the park that’s put on by the Nashville scene and we actually Did that again this past past year, I guess 2019 to two years in a row, and diverted about 80% of the waste from the, you know, between composting and recycling. And so I worked with, I got to meet a lot of sort of the players and got a seat at the table, you know, in Nashville, which was pretty fulfilling and cool. And just interesting to see that that’s side of, I guess, that side of Metro operations and just the businesses that are intertwined with the zero waste mindset in Nashville. It’s pretty cool.

Michael Britt: So did you was the leadership that was a workshop that you took or conference was at the Al Gore one?

John Hawkins: No, no, it’s, it’s it’s kind of like a personal development course. It’s called landmark. It’s, it’s its own organization. But the final portion of it is leadership. And it just kind of helps you develop your leadership style and your characters and what you’re passionate about. And so it could range from anything from like, some people did like a comedy thing some people did like Big Brother Big Sister, some people did. You know what, whatever your passion was.

Michael Britt: A you probably I don’t know if you saw but Maris we did a Maris did a video, we shot a video about the recycling the trash problems at Which one was it? Oh, live on the green? Yeah, what we saw it live on the green is that they build it as this. So we’ve got recycling containers, we’ve got this and then you walk around and just trash everywhere. Nobody’s using it. No one’s no one’s helping anybody

Maris Masellis: did a great job trying they have the initiatives and they do a good job presenting that to the public but the public is still not getting it, that there’s more to it. You know, you can’t just put a bunch of bins out with with words on them. expect people to make the right decision or even even care take a second to read. It’s wild, you know, and it’s not intentional. I feel like some people does. And we’re not gonna, we’re not going to target you. We’re going to target the people that actually do care, but will go out to these places and not even notice what they’re doing. It’s just

John Hawkins: you see it everywhere? Yeah, sure. It’s, it’s a challenge. And I think, you know, after that, so the movie events in the park movie nights in the park was a series of four events and each event, you know, we kind of learned something and then graduated and tried to include that into what we’re what we’re trying to do. But I recruited volunteers through hands on Nashville, and so I had at any given one I probably had 10 or 12 people out there helping me which you really do have to have volunteers at all the different weigh stations and it seems sort of like Elementary, you know, telling people where to put their trash but that is One of the most confusing aspects of recycling is is, I guess, discovering and deciphering what piece of trash goes in which bin, you know. And that’s kind of a after watching that movie that you guys told me about a story. That is one of the hardest aspects of it is deciphering. You know exactly what goes where?

Michael Britt: Yeah, I mean, it’s so broken. That that’s, that was our previous conversation where it devolved into maybe we shouldn’t even do this anymore. And I know you and I had conversations like that when you came over that day, to get the dog bed that, you know, what, what’s the point if we’re doing all this work to sort, collect, wash, you know, process of the facility and then it goes to Indonesia or gets buried in the landfill because there’s no value for it anymore. And it almost so what I was coming to the conclusion and I wanted to check What your opinion was about this is is that worse than then not doing it and moving to like composting or something to focus on the works right now and Nashville or

John Hawkins: i think i think there’s aspects of it that will always be worth it, you know, there’s there are certain materials that are, are valuable enough to keep them out of the landfill. It’s hard, it’s hard when you start to include plastic into that because plastic, in a lot of cases doesn’t have a lot of value, especially single use plastic, you know, years ago and they put the recycling label on all types of plastic and they have the numbers and most people don’t know what those numbers mean or stand for. But you know, there’s different derivatives of plastic that it’s either coming from propane, like propylene or it’s coming from ethane which is like to to drip reserves of petroleum oil. And so all the different numbers there are different byproducts of that plastic that was not used in the production of oil, basically. So that’s one of the big talking points in the movie is that most of the plastic is sort of a byproduct of oil production. And so if oil usage or oil consumption drops dramatically, plastic becomes sort of a failsafe for all these different companies that want to, you know, increase their revenue where it’s lagging, by generating more plastic producing more plastic. There are materials that are worth recycling, I would say paper for sure. Paper cardboard, metals, you know, are infinitely recyclable. Just plastic every time you recycle them. They degrade So they become less and less and less valuable. So it’s, I would say maybe, you know, if you could, if we could re educate, focus, read huge re education campaign to the general public as to what is valuable and what is not. And then try to go towards the companies and say, you know, maybe we need to rethink how we’re packaging different products. And either try to use less, you know, disposable items. And rethinking it. As far as like when I traveled. years ago, I traveled to South America in like Coca Cola, for example, I had bottles that you could reuse you would use at the store, and then when you’re done with them, you’d pay it or you pay up the positive. When you’re done with them, you take them back, and it’s a very rigid, you know, plastic. It’s probably a number five of polypropylene that you can use multiple times and it can be washed out or use and it does Sort of like an industrial top on it you know but it was just in the grocery store and then when you’re done with it you take it back to the little receptacle in the grocery store and then coke comes and picks it up, takes it back to their facility cleans it refills it and then puts it back in the store and then someone else comes in buys it so I think sort of reuse aspect like that would be more feasible long term then relying on recycling only

Michael Britt: do you find like you know you’re talking about how you know towards the end of your stint there at the your recycling company that you’re almost having to give the content away the the recycled content and I know that you know here in town and Nashville on Trinity lane there was no one on Trinity on Gallatin, it was that cash for cans place and, and through the grapevine I’d heard that they had some sort of deal with I think Coors or Budweiser or somebody where they collected aluminum cans by the pound and sold it to the to them for making more aluminum cans for Beer. But the, from what I’ve heard the bottoms Mark dropped out of the market for aluminum as well as everything else because the shipping containers aren’t going back across to China full of stuff like they were before and because a lot of the use for aluminum and these materials, the manufacturing is in Asia. And so, from what I can tell, even though aluminum is valuable, the bottom has dropped out of the market for it as well. Is that correct? As far as far

John Hawkins: as I know.

John Hawkins: So all all commodity prices have dropped for recyclables. And that is something that is kind of confounding to think about because if you you know the world population is only growing and materials are not, you know, unlimited. There is a limit to all of our natural resources, you know, things are not infinite. And you would think that there would at least Be a baseline level, you know, to commodities where it’s not gonna surge and, and fall so dramatically, but they do. And a huge part of that in the last 20 months, I would say to 24 months has been China’s influence in the whole global market. And that

John Hawkins: was sort of a soft market

John Hawkins: had a soft bottom in the past because China was buying up all the recyclables from all the different municipalities and in different companies in America, and like you said, they were going back and empty freight containers, so they would send us you know, our goods and then we don’t really export that much stuff to China. So those shipping containers were going back empty and instead they filled them with recyclables, and then they were just being dumped there. The problem with all that was there so much contamination that by At the time that they received them, the recyclables weren’t worth anything. And so another aspect of the movie talked about is the price of sorting is the only way that it’s feasible is because they have low wage labor workers, sifting through all the different types of materials. And it’s the same thing over there. But anyway, I guess all the contamination, China just eventually said enough with it, and we’re not taking we’re not going to be the world’s dumping ground anymore, and they stopped it. And that was late 2017 When that happened, so I guess almost three years ago,

Michael Britt: the question I have and maybe you have an insider view to some of this is what happens to it right now. There’s no transparency and what is happening to the you know, what waste management does with the, with our recycling. So we talked to kW plastics We talked to kW plastics in Alabama which like, what 45 minutes from here or something like that our our something from here. And they’re the world’s or this the largest on this continent of the plastic recyclers, and they don’t get any of our plastic. So yet our contract with from waste management for the city says that they’re not allowed to ship it overseas. Where do you think our plastics going? Do you think they found a different manufacturer? Do you think they’re burying it in the land? That’s

John Hawkins: it’s possible. I think that is a huge aspect that is, is tough with the entire recycling industry is transparency and trying to find out where your stuff is ending up. And I think a lot of when I was in involved with it, a lot of our customers would want to know, you know, where’s our stuff going? What is it being used for? And I think in in certain circumstances, it’s it’s very fybel and others it’s it’s not because it’s most recycling facilities, our materials Recovery Facility, so all they’re doing is sorting the materials and baling it, putting it on to some kind of, you know, either a flatbed container truck, or a container truck or a flatbed truck, and in either shipping it overseas or shipping it somewhere domestically, and that may be bought and sold more times than from who they who the original buyer is. You know, so that transparency aspect is very tough to

John Hawkins: I don’t know, to track down

Michael Britt: is that a shuffle game? Almost. Do you think it’s like, oh, you know, who’s got it. We’re looking into the cup. Here’s the ball, we got to move in, we don’t know.

John Hawkins: Everything is supply and demand. And so if there’s a market for something, you know, they’re just trying to sell it. They’re trying to make money on it. So the recyclers the guy that we took it, took our stuff to is down in Franklin is the municipal place for the city of Franklin, the commercial side of it, and he told me, I had asked him several times where are the things were the materials that we were sending, were going he told me that the bottom had fallen out on a lot of materials and that the thing that was bringing in the most revenue at at the end of last year and earlier this year, was mixed paper. And so that you know, is mixed paper and then an office white paper gives a lot of money because that can be reused and made into cardboard, and other things that are used pretty readily. The things that have little to zero value is plastic and a lot of the plastics are straight up trash like they did not want them The things that were accepted were number one in tos and that you’re on polypropylene. Sorry, that’s your polyethylene is number one and two. So and polyethylene is number one. Number two is high density polyethylene. And then number five is polypropylene. So those three items were used. But as far as their value, basically, he was telling me that they were giving them away, so they didn’t have to pay to throw them in the landfill. So that’s kind of where we’re at right now that they don’t really have a monetary value, but they’re, they’re worth more than,

John Hawkins: I guess, pay into throw them away. So,

Maris Masellis: yeah, and, you know, we kind of looked at this ban that that happened this last year, in dismay, we’re all very confused, like how can we not take the clam shells and to go containers and But now, it seems like this has been known knowledge that these types of plastics aren’t recyclable for a very long time. And we’ve just been putting them all in the recycling bin anyway. And it’s been making it harder for people to sort through and we knew all this time that we weren’t going to be able to recycle it from the beginning. I feel like this has been old news. And we’ve been fed this other, this other

John Hawkins: data, some of those things, it’s it’s tough to because I think some of those, the clamshell packaging, some of them if you look at the number on it, and that’s really where you have to be, I guess, technically proficient and observant, you know, because most people don’t really look they just assume plastic is plastic. But if you look inside the number, you know, if it’s one, two or five, then there’s a good chance that that is recyclable. The reason that the municipal facilities are saying that they don’t want the clamshell things Because those are food, food packaging, and most people don’t clean their plastic, so it’s probably better for them to say, you know, don’t do not put this in there rather than taking the chance that someone will put it in there with food contamination on it because then that could ruin everything you know. So, contamination is a huge a huge issue with recycling and with composting. Because when you have over like 5% of contamination, it can ruin entire you know, batch of recycling and force the whole thing to have to be sent to the landfill.

Michael Britt: And the other thing from talking to kW plastics, they said all of those plastic clam shells are clear and it’s not evident on a quick sorting the sorters can’t determine without looking at that little number on them, which we all know is, you know, regulated self regulated by the manufacturers,

Maris Masellis: which a lot of people didn’t know you know, all my friends. Look at those chasing years. It’s recyclable. They don’t they don’t know what the numbers are. They’re not exactly. They don’t know that that doesn’t mean it’s recyclable, telling you what kind of plastic it is. So everybody’s known it all in and that’s why it was contaminated. And we have one one thing is that most people

John Hawkins: don’t know that. And there there has. One of the huge problems with recycling across the country is that it’s been fed to the Fed to society as like a savior. You know, when people talk about sustainability, one of the first things that come to mind is recycling. And it’s kind of a misnomer, because when when they initially started the whole recycling process and rolled it out as like a, you know, a solution for society to to minimize our waste it. It’s the third step in the chain, reduce, reuse, and recycle and then recycle. You know, it’s the last thing you’re going to do before you’re supposed to throw something away. You know, and there is no way it’s just going to a landfill. So,

Maris Masellis: exactly.

Michael Britt: All right. Well, I mean, I guess, maybe not stop all recycling. But maybe maybe it would be a bold move to say we’re not accepting the city isn’t gonna accept plastic and everyone will be all up in arms. But then they’ll start asking question and realize why we can’t accept plus.

Maris Masellis: Well, that’s the problem though, Michael, isn’t it? It’s because we’re not told why these decisions are being made. The transparency is not there. We as a consumer don’t know what’s going on we as a recycler, think we’re doing a good thing. So if you’re going to take away our one way, or one thing that we can feel good about and think that we’re we’re doing our part, we’re like, Hey, what are we what are we doing we’re doing we’re not doing anything now. When it when it’s truly in the beginning, produce for us and the products that we’re using and the and the awareness in this in the shopping cart and all these different players. It’s like if we if we can educate ourselves, if they Tell us why they’re just banning it. That would make more sense. I

John Hawkins: think it’s it’s tough to because I was gonna say it’s tough to because sometimes when there’s seemingly like, a groundswell of momentum around things like you’re so goes to this plastic straws issue. And I love when you know, society as a whole gets passionate about something and they want to make it right. It’s just it’s kind of a misguided approach because, you know, banning straws is great, you know, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just people don’t understand why you’re doing it, and what the purpose is, and that it’s such a small step, you know, when we could do something much bigger and more meaningful. But like you said, People want to feel like they’re doing their part and if they You know, can can maybe buy something to replace whatever they’re using or just feel like they’re doing something to, I guess negate their the bad effects that they’re also causing.

Michael Britt: Do you feel? Do you feel that? I mean, one of the things we’ve been talking about the only way out of this as if it’s legislation is have leadership that stands up to the fossil fuel companies and Unilever and Procter and Gamble and all these people and say, you have to use this recycled material as a society. We’re not just throwing it away, because it’s not going anywhere, first of all, and we’re just hoarding it in our it’s not a recycle, it’s just a cycle. If you’re not going to use it,

Maris Masellis: if you’re going to produce it, you need to figure out how you’re going to get it back from the

John Hawkins: extended producer responsibility for sure.

Michael Britt: Yeah, like in Germany. Yeah, I think we need to go that direction. And unfortunately, I don’t think this is the administration that’s going to do it. So we need to get rid of them and get people in that will. I mean, That’s the only way to make this work

Maris Masellis: legislation. And that’s and that’s the one scary word that no one wants to say ever. We don’t want to talk politics ever. And this is, you know, this is, this is the future, this is our future. So we have to and I think we are the leaders in this and demanding it in so many different ways. And we’re so we’re so glad that you’re here to kind of like give us more perspective on the recycling industry. Because after watching the story of plastic, I was under the impression that recycling has just kind of been this bullshit excuse for companies to keep producing it and keep taking advantage of us. And I’m just not down with it anymore. And it’s frustrating for me to go into a store and know that there are certain products that I that I use that I don’t know how to get rid of in my life. And I don’t know how I know that they’re not going to be recycled, and it really upsets me but it’s I feel useless. And so what’s What’s the next thing we got to do? What What do we have to do to be to be heard, and I think putting people in charge and getting those people to Congress and making those

John Hawkins: laws, I think formats like this is a great way to engage the public and to increase awareness to the issue. And you know, public awareness is probably just like he saw with the straws, you know, even though that was a minor thing. You did start to see not only in bigger cities like Nashville, Atlanta, in the southeast and beyond. Of course, like you know, California, Pacific Northwest, New England, all those areas are ahead of the curve. It does really shift public awareness and public conversation around things that you know, what is it that individuals can do to to move the needle on these grand sweeping problems?

Maris Masellis: I really love what you said about people coming together. And being passionate. I really liked what you said about that. But it’s true. It’s a small thing, but it means a lot that we can sure over one video be touched in our hearts and be like, wow, we really need to change and that’s why the story of plastic is so good. I made like three or four friends of mine. She’s on like,

Maris Masellis: this is the truth.

John Hawkins: I think her name is Amy Linder, Annie Leonard that

Maris Masellis: just to sum it all up. Um, john, thanks for coming on the show with us and talking trash with us. Is there anything you know any message that you want the people to hear on your behalf? What What do you have going on sustainably or, you know what, what things are you passionate about right now?

John Hawkins: Well, I I’m kind of in a transitional moment in my life as far as figuring out what the next step is. I spent, you know, 18 months

John Hawkins: working in in a field that I’ve

John Hawkins: Do still consider myself very passionate about just the aspect of you know, waste diversion through compost and recycling is great in certain contexts, but it’s it’s not for me.

John Hawkins: One of the aspects, I guess, that I realized from the whole thing is, is it’s important, just like recycling is kind of the last step in the process. For me, I want to kind of go back to and I think I was telling Michael this to kind of go back to the start of the process. So like, maybe working for a company that’s, you know, making the packaging or whatever creating some sustainable alternatives to the current practices that we’re doing now. That’s, that’s where I want to focus my energy. So personally, though, I’ve been dealing with rebuilding myself. house after the tornado for the last couple months it’s been been an ordeal. March Nashville.

Maris Masellis: I’m glad you’re you’re okay and it’s just a little house

John Hawkins: yeah alive and well and I have insurance so everything’s okay. I guess

Maris Masellis: I don’t adulting

John Hawkins: right on I appreciate you guys for having me.

Maris Masellis: Thank you and we’ll continue this conversation is gonna keep going so maybe down the line we’ll tema join forces and make this thing better. Sounds good

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