Checking in on environmental initiatives from across the globe and across the neighborhood:

Roughly 83.6 million tons of plastic are released to the environment each year, a number that continues to grow. Much of that mass turns into microplastics that are subsequently found throughout our environment, ultimately making their way to the ocean.

Meanwhile, traditional recycling practices are failing – just 5% to 6% was recycled last year, with the bulk ending up in landfills.

Now, the plastics industry is proposing a solution that deserves consideration – chemical recycling, a process that uses heat or chemical solvents to break down plastics into liquid and gas to produce an oil-like mixture. That mixture, industry leaders say, can be made back into plastic pellets to make new products. The industry has already invested in several new plants across the United States.

Environmental advocates are skeptical, accusing the plastics industry of “greenwashing,” and saying the far better solution is to move away from plastics use altogether.

There is considerable merit to that argument. But there is also merit to exploring a process that allows more of the plastic already in use to be repurposed – without burning – into usable products.


We waste too much food.

Americans throw out more than $218 billion a year worth of edible food, according to the nonprofit organization Feeding America. We may feel virtuous filling our shopping carts with brussels sprouts and broccoli, but something changes by the time we get home; that’s why the average American family of four tosses more than $1,600 a year in produce.

The situation isn’t much better in the hospitality industry, where about 85% of the food that isn’t used in restaurants is thrown out. That’s roughly a half pound of food per meal.

Overall, 35% of the food in the United States goes unsold or uneaten, and the waste stream from that wasted food contributes significantly to climate change. The carbon footprint of food waste was 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. A report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the carbon footprint of food waste was 7% of all global emissions.

Some communities, such as Hamilton, have instituted mandatory composting, and there are several restaurants that work with anti-poverty groups to get high-quality unused food to people who need it most.

Now, a new app looks to connect Boston area and local restaurants with bargain-minded diners in an effort to reduce the amount of food tossed at the end of the night.

The app, Too Good to Go, puts users in contact with restaurants putting together “surprise bags” of food at the end of a shift. It is otherwise fine food that would end up in the trash can, and is offered at a bargain price.

A spokesman for Too Good to Go, which was founded in Denmark in 2016, reports that 100,000 meals have been saved in the Boston area so far this year.


Finally, put the rake down. Go back inside, grab a cold beverage, flop onto the couch and turn on some football.

Turns out what we thought was lazy is good for the planet. The autumn leaf covering means richer, more fertile soil in the spring.

Local businesses and environmental organizations are recommending that we ditch the dreaded fall chore. Besides providing safe harbor for salamanders and fireflies, healthier soils store water more efficiently, which can help stabilize local water tables.

“We have less runoff, healthier soils for our native plants and non-native plants. Your garden will just look better,” Cheryl Rafuse, owner of Plant Magic Gardens in Beverly, told reporter Dustin Luca.

Rafuse said, “Something we don’t think about is soil content. Your average person isn’t like, ‘Hmm, I wonder how much compost and disintegrating matter is in my soil.’ Where you get that naturally is leaves and sticks — the things people consider to be messy are the things to help our soil retain water.”

Don’t rake? You don’t have to tell us twice.

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