It’s true, we are all *just* a drop in the bucket—together we can fill the bucket! There are a million ways we can each contribute to protecting our environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 30 percent of U.S. solid waste (i.e., the waste that is normally handled through residential and commercial garbage-collection systems) is recycled. About 15 percent is incinerated and about 55 percent goes into landfills.Econlib
We tend to think we are doing our part when we fill our recycling bins. We do our very best to make sure the items we toss are at least able to be considered for recycling. We feel proud, assuming that we aren’t contributing to the landfill. We beleive instead the majority of our waste is trasferred into facilities that will turn it around and repurpose those materials for another use. The recycling system is a little broken though, and unfortunately, that’s not the case most of the time.
Every community has slightly different guidelines. We can start by looking up our own community’s guidelines on BeRecycled.org, which has a nationwide directory of all community guidelines. However, there are some universal recycling rules that are major. We all need to know the basics.
Recyclable contamination = trash
Recycling contamination is one of the biggest problems with items not getting recycled properly. That is when non-recyclable materials are mixed in with your recycling bin—meaning non-recyclable alternative plastics, and of course, food and product. Mixing it in with all your other items will prevent the entire load from being recycled properly.
Wash your recyclables
The number one way you can prevent contamination is to wash and dry your recyclables. Straight away, this sounds time-consuming, but it’s so worth it! If you have a dishwasher toss them in there to do the work for you. This not only removes food or product but soften labels and make them easier to remove so that the items are squeaky clean for the bin. That being said, greasy, cheesy pizza boxes? Not recyclable. Seriously. Stop throwing them in there!!!
Peel off labels
Labels on bottles and cans need to come off, but we need to take off our shipping labels from our cardboard and plastic padded envelopes before tossing them into recycling. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it does have to be intentional. Just a little extra thought and cleanliness could make a difference in whether your items get repurposed or not.
Properly toss electronics
Electronic devices are not recyclable in a traditional way. If they are still in working condition, try donating them to a thrift store, or email the company and inquire about a recycling program. Most companies want to be more sustainable and love to reuse their own materials. They may have a program of their own and send you a prepaid shipping label to get the process started. For example, cell phone carriers accept phones back and industrial printers do this with ink cartridges.
Additional ways to reduce footprint:
You can even go the extra mile and start composting at home. This easy-to-use device turns waste into nutrient-rich soil. Give back to the earth instead of having your food scraps rot in landfills.
Purchase new products made from recycled materials
You help close the recycling loop by buying new products made from recycled materials. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for products that can be easily recycled and already contain recycled content.