So, when was the last time you thought about recycling?
Is it an automatic behavior, or do you not think about it at all?
Less than 2% of American household waste is recycled, and Americans generate about 4.4 pounds of trash per day and up to 1 million pounds per person every year! And a LOT of that could have been recycled. The obvious things are most often recycled….your soda can, your juice bottle, the Sunday newspaper. But what about plastic take out containers? Plastic shopping bags? That aluminum foil you wrapped your sandwich in? The extra paper you didn’t mean to print at work, or the ink cartridge from your printer or copier? But what about those containers that salads come in? And for that matter, what about the leftover salad itself? ALL of this is recyclable! And it’s super easy, it just requires a slight shift in thinking.
Why recycle? Conservation of natural resources is paramount. Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil and 4100 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough energy to power the average home for 5 months (source: http://www.readyrecycles.com/recyclingfacts.htm). That’s a lot of resources!
I want to be recycled!
It’s pretty easy to recycle too. Most communities have some sort of recycling program, from curbside pickup to an easy drop off location. Recycling generates money for communities, whereas they have to pay for the trash disposal. Those materials are given a new life too, which saves trees and other resources and cuts down on pollution.
Benefits of recycling
Where to recycle
Ok, so beyond your community recycling program, what else can you do to help?
Maximize your efforts. Think about all the things in your household and daily life that can be recycled or repurposed. Bet you didn’t think about that cardboard tube your toilet paper came rolled on, did you? It can be recycled, or made into some fantastic craft projects (look at pinterest.com and search toilet paper roll craft ideas). This goes for paper towel tubes too, but using reusable cloth towels is an even greener solution.
Upcycling is a trendy new concept in recycling too. Think about it with the approaching holidays and be green with your gift giving, or just give new life to old objects!
Next time you are at the supermarket, drop off your plastic market bags. Most stores have collection bins right inside the front door for them to be recycled. Better yet, stop using those bags altogether and bring reusable cloth bags for your next supermarket shopping trip. 12 million barrels of oil a year are used in the production of 100 billion plastic shopping bags…..
Plastic Bag Stats
While at the supermarket, examine your options for less packaging. Some manufactures are using saving money by using minimal packaging for their products. This cuts down on waste from the start.
Stop the junk mail! Each person gets an average of 560 pieces of unwanted mail a year. Those 62 billion pieces of unsolicited mail will require 100 million trees for the paper alone, AND end up in the trash. Recycle that junk mail, and stop it from the start by visiting sites such as OptOut and DMA Choice to stop the mail before it starts.
And don’t toss those electronics into the garbage! E-waste is particularly toxic to the environment and to living beings too. The lead in electronics alone can cause damage to the central nervous system and your kidneys. And being in a landfill doesn’t mean it’s safe from leeching into ground water, or if it’s incinerated it becomes airborne. Electronics contain large amounts of precious metals. Recycling the electronics means saving and reusing those precious metals. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled….this is an easy thing to fix! Look and listen for electronic waste recycling events in your community. Many media outlets and businesses host them. And next time you buy a new cell phone, turn the old one in so it’s not taking up space in a drawer or encouraging you to dump it in the trash.
Facts about E-Waste
You can compost too. That’s recycling, right? Take those food scraps (not oil or meat) and turn them into ‘black gold’. Composting is a little more challenging during a Colorado winter, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Come spring all those food scraps are reusable in your garden, where they will nourish the next crop that will become your salad! There are numerous kinds of composting. You can have a pile outside, or you can use worms in a contained environment indoors to take care of those scraps.
So, what will you recycle next???