November 15th is Global Recycling Day!
Reduce and reuse are my guiding principles when it comes to recycling. It can be overwhelming to know what’s recyclable and what isn’t, especially with plastics. So, I decided the best way to recycle was to reduce and reuse. It’s easy to integrate into my daily life and doesn’t require as much thought. Many of the things I do, most of us know about, but, initially, it takes planning to make it happen, and then consistency. With our busy lives, it can be challenging, but after a while, it’s second nature.
There has been a lot of publicity around plastic, and what is with all the numbers in the triangle? It’s supposed to be helpful, but I find it confusing. The plastic that comes to mind is plastic shopping bags. Why is this particular plastic not recyclable? Technically, it is recyclable, but the plastic bags get tangled in the recycling machinery, which causes problems with the entire recycling process. If I have to use a plastic grocery bag, I reuse. My dog helps me reuse in our daily walks…if you get my drift.
Other methods of reducing and reusing:
- Reuse the plastic bags that are available in the fruit and vegetable section, or don’t use the bags at all.
- Reuse the cartons that many items come in such as yogurt and sour cream. They aren’t as fancy, but are just as useful.
- Always have a reusable water bottle on hand.
- Use reusable snack and sandwich bags. Larger ones can be used for fruit and vegetables at the grocery store.
- When I do buy something that is in a plastic container, I don’t worry about figuring out what is recyclable. Waste Management, which is my waste provider, says throw it all in there as long as it’s clean and dry. For bottles, put the cap back on before putting in the bin. Refer to your waste provider’s website for further direction.
- Avoid plastic wrap, cups with wax or plastic coatings and Styrofoam.
- Don’t put recyclables in a plastic trash bag.
What, plastic straws get their own paragraph? Plastic straws were a hot topic a few years ago and justifiably so; but sipping a soda without a straw just felt wrong, so I always have a glass straw in my purse. Plastic straws are not recyclable because they are considered microplastics that slip through the recycling process. Like their larger counterparts, microplastics can release greenhouse gases. It doesn’t seem possible that those little tubes can be a danger to our environment, but they are. Get yourself some metal or glass straws and reuse.
Like so many of us, through the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been working from home. In my job, I review and edit a lot of copy. I had a habit of printing almost everything because I found it easier to read. Since being home, I decided it was a good time to break the habit. Now, I only print if absolutely necessary and I make sure that I recycle all that I do print.
I have also reduced my use of paper by:
- Signing up for e-statements rather than paper statements.
- Getting digital receipts for items I’ve purchased.
- Stopping junk mail. There are websites, such as Catalog Choice, to get your name off of mailing lists.
- Using cloth towels instead of paper towels.
- Using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
- Avoiding using paper plates and cups.
- Using recycled gift wrap.
- Making greeting cards out of old ones.
Both glass and metal can be recycled again and again, so rinse out that salsa jar and throw it in the recycle bin. Glass jars and bottles don’t need to be 100% clean, but they need to be at least rinsed of contents to be considered for recycling. Removing labels is helpful, but not necessary. The lids are not recyclable, so they need to be removed. Most metallic items can be recycled, such as empty spray cans, tinfoil, soda cans, vegetable and other fruit cans. Make sure all cans are clear of liquids or foods just by simply rinsing them. Here’s something that I have always done that I didn’t know was wrong: don’t crush aluminum cans before recycling! Apparently, that can contaminate the batch because of the way cans are processed.
So…grab your reusable shopping bags, reusable water bottle, reusable straw and sandwich in your reusable plastic container, and head out for a day of errands knowing that you are contributing to the betterment of the environment, but don’t drive around too much, because, you know…carbon footprint, but we won’t go there today.
Recycle Right | Waste Management (wm.com)
Great Pacific Garbage Patch | National Geographic Society
Are Plastic Straws Recyclable? [How to Properly Recycle & Dispose Plastic Straws] – Get Green Now (get-green-now.com)
How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables | US EPA