Recycling 101: Creating a Basic Recycling Program
In today's world it is more important than ever to live a sustainable lifestyle. With climate change, diminishing water supply and disappearing resources, people must take responsible action with steps to reduce their eco footprint on earth. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2009 Americans produced about 4.4 pounds of waste per day and only recycled about 1.3 pounds of the waste daily. This adds up to only 82 million tons of waste getting recycled out of the 243 million tons produced (EPA).
Basic recycling is a simple and easy step that all people should do to significantly reduce their eco footprint.
It is estimated that 60 percent of garbage thrown in landfills could actually be recycled.
To start, check in with your nearest recycling facilities, or log on to www.earth911.org to see what items are accepted in your area. Many items that are not accepted in curbside programs can be recycled at drop off facilities.
Once you know what to recycle, getting into a regular routine is fairly easy. It is helpful to designate a specific area for recycling such as the laundry room, basement, garage etc. Gather about a half dozen recycle bins, trash cans or plastic tubs and label them for different recyclables such as plastic, mixed paper or aluminum. Place these bins in your new recycling area. Having this space set aside is an important factor to a successful recycling routine.
Listed below are the common household products that can be recycled at most facilities.
- beverage cans
- tin cans
- aluminum foil
- pie plates
Be sure to check with your local facility to see if removing paper labels is necessary.
Easily recyclable, cardboard is often one of the first things people think to recycle. However, sturdy cardboard boxes work great for indoor storage also. Don't have the money to buy plastic bins for your recyclables? Use old boxes instead and recycle them when they get worn and flimsy.
Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a light bulb for four hours.
Both clear and colored:
Glass bottles and jars are easily recyclable, as most curbside recycling programs accept them. However, be sure to check with your local facilities on how to properly to recycle glass items such as cookware, windows or windshields
Before recycling magazines, check to see if any local doctor's offices or school art classes would reuse them first.
- All regular paper (office, printer, lined and scrap paper, etc...)
- All paper board (cereal boxes, soda boxes, product packaging, etc...)
- paper bags
- paper towel and toilet paper tubes
- card stock
- envelopes (without plastic cellophane)
- junk mail
Mixed paper and paperboard is used in a vast amount of product packaging, but most people don't realize, or perhaps don't notice, that much of that packaging can easily be broke down and recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recycling one ton of mixed paper would be like saving 165 gallons of gasoline.
Possibly the easiest item to recycle, newspaper is accepted by a majority if not all recycling programs. However, before recycling, see if any schools or craft programs would be interested in reusing it for projects, or keep it yourself and use it for wrapping gifts or paper mache products.
The energy used when recycling plastic is 70 percent less than what would be used when making it from raw materials.
- beverage bottles
- bottle lids
- jugs (milk, laundry soap, etc..)
- tubs and lids (butter, sour cream containers, etc...)
- all plastic bags- including food packaging (bread bags, cereal bags, produce bags, etc...)
- yogurt and pudding cups
- plastic wrap and film
- plastic packaging
- bubble wrap
- plastic clam-shells (strawberry containers, etc...)
- beverage cups
- straws and plastic ware
- Other plastic (laundry baskets, tubs, bins, etc...)
Perhaps the most important material for people to recycle, plastic is used in most products and packaging. It is estimated that plastic can take several hundred years to break down in a landfill, and is made up of a precious and diminishing resource-- petroleum. What seems to be a little known fact is that nearly all plastics can be recycled, and many facilities will accept most, if not all, types.
Making the Change
Recycling, while it isn't the only step that one should take to reduce his or her eco footprint, it makes for a great stepping stone into the world of sustainable living. Until manufacturers begin producing environmentally friendly products and packaging, it is up to consumers to purchase products with sustainability and recycling in mind. By beginning a recycling program in your own household you will see how much of an impact you can make just by properly disposing of your waste.
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