I have always been passionate about recycling. As I get older I find it plays a more important role in my day and I try to live by the “reduce, reuse, and recycle ” mentality. I have found that with very little extra effort, “reduce, reuse, and recycle” can become part of your life. Not only do I feel good about the positive impact it can have on our earth, I have seen my habits rub off on my kids, too. I do believe they will be conscientious consumers when they are heads of their households.
I was inspired when I was about 10 years old, when my sister lead a local Green Earth recycling campaign out of the basement of our home. I remember answering phone calls and collecting recycled materials and taking it to the local recycling center. This was well before recycling was a household word. Fast forward 40 years… Recently, I spent a week in Spain and was once again reminded how the Europeans are minimalists in their consumption of packaged goods. And in the large cities it is common place for multiple, huge recycling bins to be on street corners. Again, for them, it is just a way of life.
It is easy to become a better consumer. Simply Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
America Recycles Day is November 15th, a good time to raise awareness and share tips for becoming a better, responsible consumer. I am fortunate to live in a city that makes recycling very easy. The City of Phoenix provides us with large blue trash bins and allows ALL recyclables to co-mingle into one bin. No sorting. And they recycle nearly all streams: All plastic bottles, plastic jugs, clear and colored glass bottles, cardboard and food boxes, aluminum and metal cans, newspaper, catalogs, and junk mail! My goal every week is to have my blue recycle bin filled twice as high as my green compost bin by being the best recycler I can be. I did a bit of internet research on tips to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and then evaluated what I am doing well, and where I can improve:
What I do well:
- Designate a space and a couple bins for recyclables in the laundry room closet. Plus, I have a hanging bag for storing plastic bags.
- Locate a bin in the garage for more hazardous materials like light bulbs, electronics, batteries, aerosol containers, paints.
- Recycle glass containers and always clean them out well before I put in the bin.
- Recycle newspapers. Recycle magazines or give them to a friend.
- Recycle all plastic containers. Clean them well and remove their caps.
- Recycle steel cans.
- Collect aluminum cans and take them to a local scrap metal facility. My son helps with this and gets the cash as a little bonus.
- Buy products made from recycled content.
- Repurpose stuff: I find value in so many things and find alternative uses.
- But when there is no longer a purpose, we collect scrap metal and get cash for it.
- Someone’s trash is another man’s treasure – I was reminded again this week when we placed an old garden hose in the quarterly trash pickup pile. Someone came by and cut off the brass ends of our worn out hose. I forgot about that, but was pretty happy someone else remembered. And the next day someone found value in our old garden hose and took that.
- Use reusable grocery bags and have numerous ones in both cars. We have significantly reduced the amount of plastic and paper bags we bring home.
- Write on both sides of printed scrap paper.
What I can do better:
- Reduce and recycle junk mail. I have removed myself from many mailing lists, but it is the endless solicitations, coupons, and election material that is so frustrating. I will commit to placing 2 bins in my office and separate immediately to capture recyclable materials.
- Recycle plastic over-wraps. I just learned that the plastic around cases of water bottles, and outer wrap of paper towels and toilet paper can be recycled with plastic bags at many grocery stores.
- Reduce the amount of plastic water bottles I buy.
- Buy paper towels and toilet paper made of recycled materials rather than virgin paper towels. I have not noticed if I am buying these with recycled materials or not, but I will look now.
- I will take plastic bags back to the grocery store. While I reuse many of them, the ones I use do ultimately go into landfills which is discouraging.
- Buy fewer single serve containers. Soda in 2 liter bottles versus a 12 pack of cans.
I encourage you to view this video https://www.phoenix.gov/publicworks/education on what happens to the recycled materials when they are picked up from your curb. This informative video explains the “Materials Recovery Facility” process in Phoenix. Pretty neat how they separate everything.
Also check out this great site from Waste Management http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp to help give you guidelines for recycling.
And see how some creative folks have “repurposed” plastic bags and plastic bottles into forms of art at our Pinterest board: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I challenge you to at least make 1 change in your household to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
And honor America Recycles Day: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Every day.