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Submitted Ideas



Scan the UPC on your phone and buy/recycle smarter

Posted by Darlene Garvais | California, United States

Consumers are confused about recycling and so they either don't do it, or they do it wrong. They are also confused about microbeads, plastic jetsam, and trash diversion.

With China's recent rejection of most recycling refuse exported from the U.S.- as too contaminated, it is increasingly important to educate the public on best recycling practices.

I have a somewhat handy app on my phone that helps me to know, by scanning the barcode, if the product meets my ethical standards. I select issues that are important to me so it knows my criteria. This app would be better if it weren't limited in participation and library of products. Also, I don't know if there is a profit motive skewing the ratings, or not. But it seems like a good start.

I would like to see a public, or non-profit, effort to add additional information into every UPC or QR code to reveal how a product should be properly recycled or disposed based on the zip code input. There could also be a link to additional guidance or forums to answer in-the-weeds questions. For example; just how clean do you need to get that aluminum lasagna pan before it is okay to go into the blue bin? The usual guidance of "clean and dry" is a bit vague.

If consumers could have the option of scanning a product before discarding, or even before purchasing, they would be more confident about their recycling efforts and could share the app, or anecdotal information, with others so that we could recycle more successfully and maybe influence buying patterns to avoid microbeads, or other products that harm marine life and our climate generally. The dangers of 6-pack rings, swallowed bottle caps, flushed medicines and other hazards could also be made prominent with a simple UPC or QR scan.

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