Preserve founded the Gimme 5 program in 2008 as a way to help collect and repurpose #5 plastic that was not widely accepted for recycling and more importantly, to demonstrate again that recycled plastic could be used to make new products. The plastic collected through the Gimme 5 program went into millions of Preserve toothbrush and razor handles and also helped create plastic lumber, rain barrels and watering cans. By partnering with retailers, like Whole Foods Market and leading consumer brands such as Burt’s Bees, Stonyfield, 7th Generation and Plum Organics to name just a few, Gimme 5 demonstrated the power of brands working together on sustainability challenges and that the waste from one product cycle could be efficiently used as the food for another.
So much has changed since 2008. While Preserve continues to believe strongly in the benefits of recycling – making the most by reusing materials is a primary purpose behind our founding – our focus can no longer be on taking in small amounts of #5 plastic by mail. To that end, we have decided that we must close our Gimme 5 mail-in program. Instead, we, together with you, are determined to focus on more efficient solutions that will lead to a more sustainable future in the long run.
What are these better solutions?
Using less plastic in packaging to begin with, and less virgin plastic.
Sign on by companies to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation New Plastics Economy Global Commitment has grown enormously, signifying that major brands are committed to using less plastic. Preserve is proud to be a signatory. And while we realize that a group effort like this is not perfect and also takes time, we believe it represents a key path to real long-term change.
Ensuring that product manufacturers and brands take responsibility for their packaging at the end of life through extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs.
Oregon, Colorado and Maine have passed EPR laws, slated to go into effect in 2024 (Oregon) and 2025 (Colorado and Maine) which will ensure that the manufacturers support state and municipal recycling costs to recycle their packaging and that of others.
Improved recycling systems and greater demand for valuable plastics such as recycled polypropylene
With increased demand for recycled materials, we need to continue to find support for recycling systems to capture more valuable materials.
What is Preserve doing now?
- We are increasing our use of post-consumer recycled materials – supporting the demand for plastics collected from municipal curbside collection. Local collection has always been the most efficient way to move recycling (versus long distance mail in) and we are thrilled to be able to support that.
- We are exploring new materials. We know that choosing to manufacture using recycled polypropylene represents a significant decrease in greenhouse gasses, electricity and water versus virgin plastic. We are also working to develop and use biomaterials that actually capture carbon and that breakdown harmlessly in the environment.
What can I do with my plastic packaging right now?
We know this answer isn’t easy. While transportation will someday be powered by renewable energy, we are of course not there yet. In today’s world we can’t support long-distance small shipments of plastic for recycling, so we do ask that you please not mail or bring plastic to us.
- The best way to deal with plastic packaging waste is to try to avoid it initially. The Gimme 5 program was intended to help bridge some gaps in the patchwork of America’s recycling. However, we know that mailing in recycling isn’t a perfect long-term solution for most people. This brings us back to the sustainability tenets of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Listed in order of importance, “reduce” remains the most effective piece of advice for avoiding waste. While some things (like prescription bottles) may be hard to reduce, others are avoidable through careful planning. For example, an alternative to individual serving yogurts is larger “family size” yogurts that can be packed into smaller reusable containers. Single use drink containers can be addressed by planning ahead and bringing a water bottle or a reusable cup from home. By carefully considering what we each choose to purchase, we can often reduce what we need to recycle.
- When you’ve reduced your plastic usage as much as possible, try to recycle what’s left locally and make sure you follow your local regulations for what’s accepted. “Wishful recycling,” the inclusion of items not officially accepted can actually increase costs for your local recycler, hampers recycling in the long run.
- For recycling codes not currently accepted in your area, or smaller items, we encourage you to reach out to your municipality and ask them for solutions. In some cases, regional drop off centers may accept mixed plastics or items that are too small to go through curbside recycling that requires machine sorting.
Where does Gimme 5 go from here?
While Gimme 5 is ending its mail in phase for general packaging, Preserve continues to offer takeback for our toothbrushes and is always willing to accept our own products back. If you have old Preserve products that are tired and need to recycled, please reach out to us at email@example.com for instructions. Gimme 5 lives on as a service for our food service and corporate partners in situations that allow us to handle recycling efficiently and at larger scale.
Although we have no near-term plans to reopen a retail-based collection program due to the contamination issues that these programs can present, we will continue to explore starting one again in future if the conditions permit.
Thank you for reading our note, and thank you for your interest in working to create better recycling systems. We know that sometimes the right answers are not the easiest ones. We thank you for understanding.