We celebrate National Recycling Day with everything there is to know about reduction, reuse and recycling.
So, you’re trying to help the environment by throwing a pile of old papers into the paper recycling bin at work. Then, one night, you find someone who dumps those recyclables into the regular trash can. Ugh, recycling is a waste of my time, you think. Does it really make any difference? If this sounds familiar, it is because it is all too common. The truth is, many people give up on recycling when they don’t see (or feel) their efforts are being taken seriously. Or they just don’t know like recycle properly and never start. But we’re here to help demystify the ins and outs of laundering and actually prove it does have an impact on the environment (and also on the economy).
“Some of the biggest barriers to entry to getting people excited about sustainability are that they think it’s crunchy, expensive, uncomfortable, or doesn’t work,” he says. Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of Give a shit: do good. To live better. Save the planet. But the fact is, your individual actions can be a pretty powerful way to help save the planet. It all starts with understanding the importance of recycling (and composting), learning which items can and cannot be recycled, and using less plastic everywhere possible.
How much of what we recycle in reality is it recycled?
In the United States we produce almost 295 million tons of solid waste every year (that’s almost five pounds per person per day!) And of that waste, around 94 million is recycled or composted.
“We hear a lot about how recycling is ineffective – and I think these stats are important for people to know – but they are also somewhat harmful because they make people feel pretty ineffective and they don’t want to,” says Piper. “But we’re still recycling or composting about 35 percent of our solid waste each year, which is great because that means they’re not in a landfill creating a pile of methane.” Since when methane emissions lead to global warming, the less it accumulates in landfills, the better for our planet.
Recycling helps the environment Other the economy
Once your recyclables leave your front door, they don’t go into an automated abyss. In fact: they are finished 150,000 recycling jobs in the country. “The real people actually work in our recycling systems, it’s not just all the automated sorting machines,” says Piper. “Recycling in the United States creates a lot of jobs, generates wages and a decent amount of revenue.”
The first step is to understand what you can recycle (and where)
Part of what makes recycling chaotic is that there are no universal regulations on how and what can be recycled. The rules of each municipality may vary. “You could go to a city and the recycling system is completely different in terms of what they will get,” says Piper. “Some recycling systems are multi-stream (meaning you have to separate everything), others are single-stream (where you don’t have to separate the articles). Some will recycle soft plastics, corks, or batteries, some will not. It really is a highly localized process. “
The best way to understand how your neighborhood prefers to receive recyclables is to call the local council and ask what their parameters are. “If your bin contains an item that is not recyclable, it is true that many times they will not recycle anything in the bin. That’s why it’s really important to find out who runs your recycling services wherever you are and find out what their guidelines are, ”says Piper.
Understand the general recycling rules
“There are some general polar stars for recycling,” says Piper. “Knowing the things that can’t be recycled is actually helpful in guiding you towards what can be.” Below, he shares some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Clean, rinse and dry your recyclable materials. “For example, if you have an expired saucepan that you intend to recycle, be sure to rinse it off beforehand. Most recycling systems work best when the items aren’t Just clean, but also dry. “
- Keep the caps On your water bottles. “We were told to remove the caps from the plastic bottles because they are made of a different type of plastic. More recently, the development is that recycling systems prefer to be kept. “
- Do not recycle certain materials. “Some items are fundamentally not recyclable in door-to-door recycling never – such as mirrors, ceramics, receipts, post-its, any type of Pyrex, plastic hangers, clothes and soft and shatterable plastics (such as Ziploc bags and the plastic cellophane that comes on vegetables). “If you are looking to recycle them, do a search to see if there are any specialized recycling programs in your area.
- Avoid recycling mixed materials. “Anything that has mixed materials, like a bottle of foundation or a protein bar wrap that has plastic on the outside but looks metallic on the inside, is probably not recyclable in your door-to-door system.”
- Do not recycle broken glass or sharp objects. “Real people are solving this problem, so it’s dangerous for them.”
- Keep your cans intact. “Most recycling systems don’t want you to break the aluminum cans because when they are crushed, they lose the sorter and can be completely excluded from the recycling process.”
Easy objects you Power to recycle
Glass, aluminum and plastic are generally recyclable. “Bottles and beverage containers that have a number printed on the bottom (as long as they’re not styrofoam or hard plastic) can usually be recycled,” says Piper. “Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, which means it can come back multiple times as aluminum without any degradation of the material. However, plastic and paper undergo quite significant degradation through the recycling process, so they can only return as plastic or paper once or twice. “
Because plastic is the problem
Today we use more plastic like never before (and there is a minimal aftermarket for that). “Recycling is not this lullaby – as we were told in the 1980s – where this cure for our sustainability and waste problems is,” explains Piper. “We need to have a spare parts market for materials resulting from the recycling process. For example, if no one is interested in buying recycled black plastic, the more you recycle it, it won’t do any good. ”
If you have to buy something that comes in plastic, Piper recommends finding options that claim to be legitimate about using recycled or aftermarket plastic in the packaging or materials. “In the US we only recycle about 8 to 9 percent of plastic, so look for things that are compostable, with reusable packaging (like glass or something you can see on your own, washed and reused) and reusable products.”
Is composting the solution?
Composting helps reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. For some, up to 75% of the garbage is actually reduced by composting, Piper tells us.
“I think composting is, in a sense, Moreover important of recycling, “says Piper.” We place a lot of emphasis on recycling as a cure for all our problems, but because the system cannot handle the influx of what we put there, reducing what we send into this system is the best way to help. Recycling and composting, combined with a very strict regime of reducing what you buy contained in the packaging and reusing absolutely wherever possible, are truly the best kind of complementary way to have a holistic system that does you good. to the environment “.