Recycling Mystery: Kitchen Sponges and Scouring Pads

Recycling Mystery: Kitchen Sponges and Scouring Pads

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When you might be caught scrubbing a pan with baked-on grease, you realize what a assist sponges and scouring pads may be. There’s solely a lot elbow-grease an individual can expend on a single pan.

Yet, the sponges and scouring pads you discover in most shops pose a number of environmental issues — from manufacture to disposal. How can we use these kitchen workhorses with out trashing the planet? Luckily, there are many eco-friendly alternate options to typical kitchen sponges.

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The Problem With Kitchen Sponges

What’s so dangerous about common kitchen sponges and people flat rectangular scrub pads? Quite just a few issues, truly.

Sponges Are Made From Plastic

The brilliant inexperienced and yellow sponges you see in your grocery retailer aisles are usually made from plastic. According to The Center for International Environmental Law’s report Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, manufacturing and incinerating plastic produced greater than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2019 alone.

Sponges Are Frequently Replaced

Sponges do loads of disgusting jobs for us, and they can be magnets for germs. Because they’re nasty and germ-ridden, researchers suggest tossing the stinkers each week. That’s problematic.

If 1 million households toss one sponge a yr, that’s 1 million sponges sitting in landfills or being incinerated. If 1 million households toss out one sponge per week, that’s 52 million sponges. With greater than 122 million households within the United States, that provides as much as a staggering quantity of plastic trash.

Sponges Create Microplastic Pollution

When you wash your dishes with a sponge, it sheds tiny fibers. These fibers, a kind of microplastics, can’t be filtered out by water remedy vegetation. These find yourself within the ocean the place they be part of the tens of millions of metric tons of plastic dumped there yearly.

Options for Recycling Sponges

Unfortunately, kitchen sponges and scouring pads aren’t straightforward to recycle. Like loads of plastic client items, you’ll be able to’t throw them in curbside recycling.

TerraCycle creates mail-in campaigns for hard-to-recycle objects. A evaluate of their web site reveals just one such campaign for recycling sponges, presently, which accepts just one model of sponge. (They do replace their recycling campaigns periodically, so that you would possibly wish to test again.)

Natural Alternatives to Plastic Sponges

Given the environmental problems with plastic sponges, it’s finest to search for sponges and scrubbers which can be manufactured from pure supplies. The excellent news is there are a ton of inexpensive alternate options.

Be looking out for greenwashing, although. Manufacturers can use phrases akin to “eco-friendly,” “all-natural,” and “unhazardous” fairly loosely, so it helps to perform a little research. Here are some plastic-free choices.

Fabric Dishcloths

Long earlier than anybody made sponges from fossil fuels, individuals used a fabric to clean their dishes. Now, eco-conscious customers are returning to this straightforward possibility.

Full Circle makes organic cotton dishcloths which can be stitched with loops that assist with eradicating stuck-on meals. Use these for dishwashing and/or to wipe down counter tops. Whiffkitch dishcloths are made of bamboo rayon, though the coloured edging is artificial.

You may also reduce up outdated clothes or towels to switch your sponges — pure fibers like cotton and linen are inclined to work finest.


Unsponges are a well-liked different to common sponges. Etsy has over 2,400 outcomes for the time period unsponge. Most of those are manufactured from cotton, however many are coated in nylon mesh or filled with recycled plastic. Unsponges with natural fiber stuffing and coverings can be found — you simply must learn the positive print.

You may also discover quite a lot of sponge alternate options on Amazon, together with MioEco’s 100% organic cotton unsponge (the filling can also be natural cotton) for non-scratch cleansing and KOLO Nature’s 100% hemp scrubber sponge.

Cellulose Sponges

Cellulose sponges are primarily comprised of wooden fiber. Not all sponges labeled as cellulose are 100% pure plant fibers, although. Many are blended with plastic. Also, some 100% cellulose sponges are soaked in chemicals.

rE: makes 100% plant-based cellulose sponges which can be totally biodegradable. If You Care’s washable sponge cloths are 70% cellulose and 30% cotton.

Loofah Sponges

You know the way effectively a loofah works within the bathe. Who says you’ll be able to’t use the identical form of sponge in your dishes? Some firms even supply loofah kitchen sponges reduce to a handy measurement.

If you actually wish to go all out, you’ll be able to develop your individual loofah (Luffa acutangular) plant. The heart of the loofah gourd is the half we use as a sponge. This article explains the way to develop and harvest the loofah. (Note: Loofahs are best to develop in heat climates with lengthy rising seasons.)

Coconut and Walnut Scrubbers

You can change your plastic scouring pads with plant-based scrubbers. Grove Collaborative has a number of coconut and walnut scrubbing pads. Since they’re 100% plant-based, you’ll be able to add them to your private home composting bin once they’re worn out, so long as they don’t seem to be drenched with fat and oils.

A Clean Kitchen and a Healthy Planet

Keeping your kitchen clear doesn’t must end in trashing the planet. There are loads of eco-friendly sponges, unsponges, and scouring pads in the marketplace. These earth-friendly choices may help you retain a clear kitchen and a clear planet.

Originally printed on January 4, 2021, this text was up to date in September 2022.