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The Recycling Dilemma: Good Plastic, Bad plastic?
By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
"As far as recyclability is concerned, the plastic bottle is probably slightly better because it is likely only made from one plastic, and so is easier to recycle than a multilayer material like a beverage carton," says Rolf Buschmann, waste and resource expert with the German environmental organization BUND, who worked on the group's 2019 Plastic Atlas.
He explains that only the paper part of the drink carton would be recycled — everything else, including the plastic coating or layer or aluminum foil, would be incinerated as residual waste.
More and More Multilayer Packaging
How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.
Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is invisible to consumers.
"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.
Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.
Lack of Recycled Plastic
A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel — in other words it was incinerated.
"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."
Another 2017 study by the chemical and waste disposal industry also shows that to date, Germany has not made much use of recycled plastic. According to the findings, plastic recyclate accounted for only 12% of the total amount of plastic processed in Germany — just under 1.8 million tons. The share of new plastic, on the other hand, was more than 12 million tons.
Room for Greenwashing
According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.
Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.
"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."
The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.
"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."
Laws Against Plastic
Images of garbage choking our waters and killing marine wildlife have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.
Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.
This may be addressed in future European Union legislation. As part of its "Green Deal," the European Commission is aiming to move toward a circular economy, and has announced an action plan to conserve resources and prevent waste.
The Commission is also being advised by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) on how to establish new rules around the use of recycled materials.
The recommendations range from landfill and export bans on plastic waste and tax rebates for recycled products, to the introduction of a plastics tax and a legal minimum quota of recycled content in packaging.
Rethinking the Whole System
Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.
Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.
"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle
As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.
Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.
Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.
"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Jill Joyce
Maybe you're trying to eat healthier these days, aiming to get enough of the good stuff and limit the less-good stuff. You're paying attention to things like fiber and fat and vitamins … and anti-nutrients?
What Are Anti-Nutrients?<p><a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Anti-nutrients are substances</a> that naturally occur in plant and animal foods.</p><p>The name comes from how they function in your body once you eat them. They <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/antinutrients" target="_blank">block or interfere with how your body</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B0710640" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">absorbs other nutrients</a> out of your gut and into your bloodstream so you can then use them. Thus, anti-nutrients may decrease the amount of nutrients you actually get from your food. They most commonly interfere with the absorption of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc</a>.</p><p>Plants evolved these <a href="https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/070111p54.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">compounds as a defensive mechanism</a> against insects, parasites, bacteria and fungi. For example, some anti-nutrients can cause a food to taste bitter; animals won't want to eat it, leaving the seed, for instance, to provide nourishment for future seedlings. Some anti-nutrients block the digestion of seeds that are eaten. The seeds disperse when they come out the other end in the animal's fecal matter and can go on to grow new plants. Both of these survival tactics help the plant species grow and spread.</p><p><span></span>In terms of foods that people eat, you'll most commonly find anti-nutrients naturally occurring in whole grains and legumes.</p>
Time for an Image Makeover as Health Enhancers<p>Despite sounding scary, studies show that anti-nutrients are not of concern unless consumed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2014.01.010" target="_blank">ultra, unrealistically high amounts</a> – and they have numerous health benefits.</p><p>Anti-nutrients are currently undergoing a change in image very similar to the one dietary fiber experienced. At one point, scientists thought dietary fiber was bad for people. Since fiber could bind to nutrients and pull them out of the digestive tract in poop, it seemed like something to avoid. To address this perceived issue, grain processing in the late 1800s removed fiber from foods.</p><p>But now scientists know that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x" target="_blank">dietary fiber is incredibly important</a> and encourage its consumption. Eating plenty of fiber lowers the risks of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some gastrointestinal diseases.</p><p>In the same way, rather than something to avoid, many anti-nutrients are now considered health-promoting nutraceuticals and functional foods due to their numerous benefits. Here's an introduction to some of the most frequently eaten anti-nutrients that come with benefits:</p><ul><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/109662004322984734" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Saponins, common in legumes</a>, can boost the immune system, reduce risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar response to foods, result in fewer cavities, reduce risk of kidney stones and combat blood clotting seen in heart attacks and strokes.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2014.01.010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lectins, found in cereal grains and legumes</a>, are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and becoming overweight or obese.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/10408699891274273" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tannins, commonly found in teas, coffees and processed meats and cheeses</a>, are antioxidants that can inhibit growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast and may decrease cholesterol levels and blood pressure.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B0710640" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Phytates, found in wheat, barley, rice and corn</a>, are associated with increased immune function and cancer cell death, as well as reduced cancer cell growth and spread. They also have antioxidant properties and can reduce inflammation.</li><li>Finally, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1024/0300-9818.104.22.168" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">glucosinates, found in brassica vegetables</a> like cauliflower, inhibit tumor cell growth.</li></ul><p>Oxalates are one of the few anti-nutrients with mostly negative impacts on the body. They are <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa166321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found in lots of common foods</a>, including legumes, beets, berries, cranberries, oranges, chocolate, tofu, wheat bran, soda, coffee, tea, beer, dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes. The negative impacts of oxalates include binding to calcium in the digestive tract and removing it from the body in bowel movements. Oxalates can also <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa166321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increase the risk of kidney stones</a> in some people.</p>
Fitting Anti-Nutrients Into a Healthy Diet<p>Overall, comparing the benefits to the drawbacks, anti-nutrient pros actually outweigh the cons. The healthy foods that contain them – mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – should be encouraged not avoided.</p><p>Anti-nutrients become a concern only if these foods are consumed in ultra-high amounts, <a href="https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/project/?accnNo=426312" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">which is very unlikely</a> for most adults and children in the U.S. Additionally, a large proportion of anti-nutrients are removed or lost from foods people eat <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as they're processed and cooked</a>, especially if soaking, blanching, boiling or other high-heat processes are involved.</p><p>Vegetarians and vegans may be at higher risk of negative effects from anti-nutrients because their diet relies heavily on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. But these <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">plant-based diets are still among the healthiest</a> and are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and numerous types of cancers.</p><p>Vegetarians and vegans can take a few steps to help counteract anti-nutrients' effects on their absorption of particular nutrients:</p><ul><li>Pair high iron <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.5.1378S" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">and zinc</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.afnr.2014.11.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foods with</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/59.5.1233S" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foods high in vitamin C</a> (examples: meatballs with tomato sauce, tomato-based chili with beans).</li><li><a href="https://www.jblearning.com/catalog/productdetails/9780763779764?jblsearch" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Soak legumes before cooking</a>.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/70.3.543s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Time dairy intake</a> such that it is not always paired with high oxalate foods.</li><li>Purchase dairy products that are fortified with calcium.</li><li>Consider a multivitamin-mineral supplement with about 100% of the daily recommended dose of nutrients (check the nutrition facts panel) as nutrition insurance if you are worried, but be sure to talk to your doctor first.<em></em></li></ul><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jill-joyce-1172925" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jill Joyce</a> is an assistant professor of Public Health Nutrition at Oklahoma State University.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Jill Joyce does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/anti-nutrients-theyre-part-of-a-normal-diet-and-not-as-scary-as-they-sound-149229" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>
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Toxins enter the body through what we eat, drink, breathe in, and process in any way. Once inside, toxins overtax our immune system and detoxification system and leave us more vulnerable to illness — not ideal during cold and flu season, and especially not this year during a pandemic — and make us age a little faster, too.
1. Source Your Food Wisely<p>Try to stay away from packaged and processed foods that contain ingredients you can't pronounce, and instead reach for fresh food from natural sources. Aim to make vegetables more than 50% of your daily diet — their fiber is a great natural binder, and they're full of beneficial <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-case-of-the-missing-phytochemicals-and-how-to-get-them-back" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">phytochemicals</a> — and minimize your red meat consumption.</p><p>Also, whenever practical, choose <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/how-to-eat-organic-without-spending-a-fortune" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">organic</a> over conventional products. That said, we know organic prices and accessibility can be an issue, so for help making strategic decisions, refer to the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Working Group</a> (EWG) "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists:</p><h3>The Dirty Dozen:</h3><ol><li>Strawberries</li><li>Spinach</li><li>Kale</li><li>Nectarines</li><li>Apples</li><li>Grapes</li><li>Peaches</li><li>Cherries</li><li>Pears</li><li>Tomatoes</li><li>Celery</li><li>Potatoes</li><li>Raisins*</li></ol><p><em>(*While raisins aren't technically a fresh food, the EWG found that they are "one of the dirtiest produce commodities on the market — and even some organic raisins are contaminated.")</em></p><h3>The Clean Fifteen</h3><ol><li>Avocado</li><li>Sweet corn</li><li>Pineapple</li><li>Onion</li><li>Papaya</li><li>Frozen sweet peas</li><li>Eggplant</li><li>Asparagus</li><li>Cauliflower</li><li>Cantaloupe</li><li>Broccoli</li><li>Mushrooms</li><li>Cabbage</li><li>Honeydew</li><li>Kiwi</li></ol>
2. Consider Detoxifying and Immune-Boosting Herbs<p>There are a number of herbs and natural ingredients that can help support detoxification and immune health. Here are the ones at the top of Dr. Rawls' list:</p><p><span></span><strong>Chlorella:</strong> This nutrient-rich freshwater algae binds to toxins so they can be eliminated from your body more efficiently. Chlorella works particularly well for withdrawing heavy metals. Pure chlorella can be purchased in the form of bulk powder, tablets, or capsules.</p><p><strong><a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/milk-thistle" target="_blank">Milk Thistle</a>:</strong> It's been used for thousands of years to support a healthy liver, the primary organ responsible for detoxification.</p><p><strong>Dandelion:</strong> Known to help support liver function, research suggests <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/dandelion-extract" target="_blank">dandelion</a> helps promote the body's natural detoxification and elimination processes.</p><p><strong>Bitters:</strong> <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-impressive-health-benefits-of-bitter-foods" target="_blank">Bitter</a> flavors are important to digestion — they stimulate the release of the saliva, enzymes, and bile that help break down your food. Include bitter herbs and foods in each meal, or take a botanical extract that blends bitter herbs like dandelion root, burdock root, orange peel, and gentian root</p><p><strong>Reishi mushroom:</strong> An extensively studied adaptogenic mushroom, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/reishi" target="_blank">reishi</a> has exceptional immunomodulating and antiviral properties. It helps normalize <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/are-you-inflammaging-how-to-stop-the-inflammation-that-speeds-up-aging" target="_blank">inflammatory</a> cytokines and promotes healthy immune response against threatening <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-immortal-life-of-your-microbiome" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">microbes</a>.</p><p><strong>Rhodiola:</strong> Another adaptogen, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/rhodiola" target="_blank">rhodiola</a> improves stress tolerance by reducing fatigue, supporting energy levels, and improving tissue oxygenation.</p><p><span></span><strong><a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/turmeric" target="_blank">Turmeric</a>:</strong> This popular spice is well loved for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.</p><p><strong>Shilajit:</strong> An herbo-mineral adaptogen, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/shilajit" target="_blank">shilajit</a> has a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine for longevity and strength. It's also an immunomodulator with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.</p><p><strong>Gotu Kola:</strong> Best known for improving memory and mood, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/gotu-kola" target="_blank">gotu kola</a> is also great for promoting a normal response to inflammation, balancing stress hormones, and supporting circulation.</p>
3. Filter Your Water<p>Much of America's tap water has been shown to contain pollutants, so filtering what comes out of your kitchen sink is smart. To be sure you're using a filter that does the trick, keep these guidelines in mind:</p><ul><li>Look for a filter certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association.</li><li>Choose one that removes the contaminants in your water (check your local drinking water quality report to see what's present).</li><li>Change your water filters on time.</li></ul>
4. Choose Safe and Effective Cleaning Supplies<p>When buying household cleaning products, don't bring home chemicals that could harm your health more than some of the microbes you're trying to get rid of. Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market that work safely; here are some ways to shop wisely:</p><ul><li>Look for the Green Seal, Ecologo, or Safer Choice (EPA) seals.</li><li>Opt for fragrance-free options.</li><li>Avoid triclosan and quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats." (One tactic is to choose products that don't advertise as "antibacterial.")</li><li>Consult the EWG's list of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/03/16-effective-and-safe-products-guard-against-coronavirus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safe and effective products</a> for guarding against coronavirus.</li></ul>
5. Opt for Non-Toxic Beauty and Personal Care Products<p>There are a lot of claims made on beauty and self-care products these days, but words alone, like "natural," "organic," "non-toxic," "clean," "green," and "eco-friendly," don't mean a thing — they aren't backed by any sort of regulatory or certification processes. Instead, to find non-toxic products you trust, you have to do a little research.</p><p>Start by checking reputable ratings databases like <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Skin Deep</a> (EWG) and <a href="https://www.thinkdirtyapp.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Think Dirty</a>. Another good bet: Look for reliable third-party certifications on products labels, including:</p><ul><li>USDA Organic</li><li>EWG Verified</li><li>Made Safe</li><li>NSF/ANSI 305</li><li>Natural Products Association Certified</li><li>Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care</li></ul>
6. Get Outside<p>One more reason to <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/how-to-feel-great-and-boost-longevity-in-just-17-minutes-a-day" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">get outdoors</a> beyond combatting cabin fever: The air in natural environments is generally much cleaner than indoor air. For one, outdoor air contains ⅔ less carbon dioxide, high levels of which negatively affect our productivity, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/natural-sleep-aids" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">sleep</a>, and more.</p><p>Forest air in particular contains phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by trees and plants that have been shown to boost our immune system function, plus plants in general help neutralize toxic substances in the air. Forests, open spaces, and open water are also rich in negative ions, which reduce inflammation.</p><p>So take your pick of natural environs, and get out there as often as possible — while still maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, of course.</p>
7. Bring Nature Indoors<p>Plants are natural air purifiers, so bringing some plants indoors can help clear the air in your home. Here's a list of the top 10 air-purifying plants to consider:</p><ul><li>Areca palm</li><li>Lady palm</li><li>Bamboo palm</li><li>Rubber plant</li><li>Dracaena</li><li>English ivy</li><li>Dwarf date palm</li><li>Ficus</li><li>Boston fern</li><li>Peace lily</li></ul>
8. Drive Less, Move More<p>Staying off the roads decreases air pollution, and the fact that many of us are driving less these days is noticeably improving air quality. If your commute is on hold, try to translate some of your usual travel time into getting more physical activity, or sneak in more movement between other normal routines.</p><p>Exercise improves circulation, oxygenates your tissues, and enhances the work of the lymphatic system through muscle contractions — all of which make it easier to move toxins out of your body.</p>
9. Practice Forgiveness<p>Through the practice of gratitude, we stay centered and in the present moment. This allows us to move through situations from our heart. Take time to forgive someone or yourself for things in the past. When we forgive, we expand and open up to endless possibilities.</p>
10. Quit a Bad Habit<p>Are you a smoker? Pack rat? Chronically sleep-deprived? In a bad relationship? Toxins come into our lives in many forms. Consider if you're participating in any unhealthy patterns or holding onto anything that no longer serves you, and then find a way to limit those things in your life.</p>
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