National Recycling Day is November 15.
Though there are many historical examples of recycling that date back long, long ago, National Recycling Day (American Recycles Day) was first established in 1997. According to the EPA, an average person generates about 4 pounds of trash PER DAY! That’s 1.5 tons of trash every year – per person! Each and every single person plays an important role in waste management for our planet.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We’ve all heard the familiar phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle” – but did you know they are written in order of importance?
First reduce the amount of waste, particularly plastics:
- Bring a reusable cup to your favorite coffee shop instead of getting a disposable cup. Also skip the plastic stir rods & drink toppers 😉
- Ditch plastic shopping bags for paper or reusable totes/coolers.
- Select products packaged in cardboard or biodegradable materials instead of plastic.
- Opt for bulk shipping when possible to reduce packing materials and carbon footprint involved in delivery services.
- Refuse plastic silverware with takeout if you don’t need it. Bonus points if you can bring in your own reusable containers or if the restaurant uses biodegradable packaging for carry out!
Next, reuse as much as you can.
- Glass jars can be reused for many purposes. Glass is an ideal storage container because it is is inert (meaning, it won’t leach harmful chemicals into whatever is stored in it) and can withstand extreme temperatures.
- Buy goods from thrift and secondhand stores instead of buying brand new.
- Keep glass jars handy for, well, everything! You can use them to store q-tips, food, homemade salt scrub or soap, or even get a pump or spray top for household cleaner or laundry detergent. Glass is inert (doesn’t leach toxins) making it an ideal storage container for everything.
- Donate items that are 5 years old or newer and in good working order to the Toledo Zoo to use (more information HERE).
Lastly, when all else fails, recycle what you can:
- Read the label of the package to ensure it IS recyclable.
- Even though it has a recycling symbol on it, certain types of plastics aren’t recyclable. Numbers 1 & 2 are almost always recyclable, while 3 & 5 are almost never accepted by consumer recyclers.
- Check your city’s specific guidelines for recycling. (For example, mine requires cardboard boxes to be broken down and bundled together with twine or tape, or placed in a paper bag.)
- Put the lids and caps back on containers and bottles after you’ve cleaned them out. Small pieces of debris can jam recycling machinery.
- Take part in other recycling efforts in the area. You can recycle hard-to-recycle things (like electronics or food pouches) at the Toledo Zoo’s “Party for the Planet” event. They team up TerraCycle.
Everything you put in the recycling bin is not actually recycled. Creating virgin (new) plastic is often cheaper than recycling old plastic into pellets that can be reused. Many consumer facilities are ill-equipped to process certain plastic recyclable “numbers,” or certain items that are likely to clog recycling machines are simply disposed of by burning or thrown in a landfill. It’s estimated a mere 9% of all plastic that is put in recycling is actually recycled. Glass is sometimes crushed up and used as landfill cover to control odor and keep pests out. It’s estimated about 40% of all glass that is put in recycling is actually recycled.
“Wish-cycling” is when something that isn’t really recyclable (looking at you, greasy pizza box) gets thrown in the recycle bin with the hope it will, somehow, be recycled. This only contaminates the whole bin, so all of the contents are trashed in a landfill instead of recycled.
What Else Can You Do?
Be innovative! Companies are looking at new ways of recycling and using recycled goods. A process called chemical recycling is showing promise for breaking plastics down into their elemental building blocks that can be used to make new plastics, over and over again. Read more HERE.
Support companies that care about reducing, reusing, and recycling efforts. Lego recently announced they will phase out plastic in favor of paper bags to contain the bricks in their sets. Beautycounter designs its packaging with not only safety and environmental impacts in mind, but human rights issues, as well. They consider where the materials came from, how they are sourced, and ultimately, who is impacted by the waste the packaging produces. Pact clothing produces organic cotton clothing, using a method that requires 95% less water than traditional cotton. Threads 4 Thought is an inspiring lifestyle fashion brand committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Rothy’s converts plastic water bottles to machine washable, stylish, & comfortable shoes. Attitude is a “clean” EWG verified brand that has a lot to love – from cardboard packaged deodorant to compostable shipping materials.