Too Many Recyclables, Too Little Space
In these times, we all want to be environmentally conscientious. We try to recycle everything we can so that future generations will not have to mine our landfills for resources. Our landfills fill up too fast anyway. Yet as we recycle more and more, our living space tends to fill up with recyclables between recycling collection or trips to the recycling center.
We know that renewable resources are the best, and that petroleum is not a renewable resource. Therefore we reduce the amount of plastics we use. Yet when we recycle. what is our recycling bin made from? Plastic!
To change the plastic recycling bin policy, two things are necessary: a grassroots effort to effect change, and an alternative. However, let's not put the cart before the horse. Before a grassroots effort can be begun, the alternative must exist. Recycling bins are plastic for the same reason most garbage cans are now plastic: wood chips, cracks, and splinters and steel dents and rusts.
Until a satisfactory alternative is found, we will have to live with plastic recycling bins. Yet it is possible to reduce the number of bins necessary by reducing the materials we use. "Reduce - Reuse - Recycle" is the environmental mantra. To reduce the third, concentrate on the other two. By reducing the amount of waste we create in the act of consumption and by reusing to help reduce consumption, we can reduce the volume of recyclables that collect weekly or monthly in our homes.
Paper or Plastic
There is a movement already underway to incentivize bringing one's own bags to the grocery store. At Whole Foods, for example, they take five cents off your bill for every bag used to take your groceries from the store. They sell the bags for about a dollar. The bags are sturdily made from mostly recycled materials. Using your own bags reduces the number of bags that will later need to be recycled.
Better yet, get your backpack and walk or bike to the supermarket instead of driving. Get exercise, reduce your carbon footprint, and reduce your bag consumption at the same time.
Whenever you go to the store for an item small enough to go in your pocket, put it in your pocket and forget the bag. What do you need the bag for? A lot of these bags cannot even be recycled by municipal recycling programs.
Instead of repackaged fruits and vegetables, purchase non-packaged produce from the bins in your supermarket and place them in your reusable bags. If your market does not offer produce that is not pre-packaged, complain to the manager and/or switch to a market that does. Produce packaging takes up a lot of space.
If there is a local farmer's market in your area, try to shop there, and bring your own bag. Great quantities of petroleum are consumed in the transportation of groceries. If you can buy locally produced food, you can reduce the carbon emissions needed to feed you.
Bottled water is a major source of discarded containers, as well as air polution from the petroleum expended in its transportation. In many cases, the water you get from your kitchen faucet is as good as the water you buy in a bottle. However, if you ride a bicycle, you need a water bottle. Consider getting a reusable stainless steel or aluminum bottle that you can use for years instead of a plastic one that you can use for weeks. If you must buy bottled water, get it in the largest container you can and refill your resusable containers from the large container.
Generally speaking, if you purchase something durable instead of something disposable, you will reduce the amount of waste you produce. Whenever you throw something away or recycle it, think, "Could I have gotten something reusable instead?" Take the time to find out. It's good for the planet.
Storage containers, for example. Consider using ceramic or metal cannisters instead of plastic bags or storage containers.
All the stuff accumulating in your place waiting for you to recycle is stuff used by you. By thoroughly examining everything you use, you will find ways to reduce your consumption of containers by simply not buying as many and by buying containers that can be reused instead of disposable ones.
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