Have you been wanting to get serious about recycling but don’t know where to begin? Most of us understand that recycling has many environmental benefits – like reducing global waste, decreasing pollution, and slowing climate change – but not all of us know how to recycle for an eco-friendlier world.
If you’re confused about the ins and outs of recycling and want some helpful tips on how to recycle effectively, this article is for you. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be recycling like a pro in no time.
1. Know what to recycle
If you’re a beginner at recycling it can be difficult to understand what you can and cannot recycle. Some items that appear to be recyclable may not be recyclable at all, and some items that are recyclable in other regions may not be considered recyclable where you live.
However, there are some items – like paper, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and flattened cardboard – that are universally recyclable, and you can always reach out to your local recycling facility to find out what you can recycle.
2. Rinse out your recyclables
Some recycling facilities use a single-stream process for recycling, by consolidating all the recycling materials (glass, plastic, and paper) into a single bin. If your local facility is using a single-stream process for recycling, your food and drink containers can potentially contaminate the rest of the bin if they contain food or liquid.
This can become a serious environmental issue, as contaminated recyclables end up in landfills instead of getting recycled. Rinsing out your recyclables helps to prevent recycling contamination and ensures that your recyclables actually get recycled.
3. Don’t bag your recyclables
Bagged recyclables can become a huge hassle for recycling facilities. Materials that are stretchy and pliable like plastic bags can get stuck in the machinery at recycling facilities and cause a halt in operations. When plastic bags get stuck in the recycling machines, it can take hours to unclog them. In some instances, facilities may even need to order costly replacement parts just to repair their clogged machines.
4. Reuse items
Reusing items reduces the amount of waste in landfills and helps conserve energy. This simple practice can even help save our natural resources by reducing the amount of raw materials needed to manufacture new products. Luckily, more companies are starting to understand the need for more reusable items and have begun creating more reusable products to replace disposable ones.
You can get into the practice of reusing at home by repurposing common household items like shopping bags, sandwich bags, and glass jars.
5. Donate or thrift your clothing
Throwing clothes in the garbage is a practice that can have harmful effects on the environment. Clothing items that get sent to landfills can produce methane and greenhouse gas that lead to pollution and accelerate global warming when broken down.
Throwing away clothing items also contributes to global textile waste, which has become an increasing issue in the past decade. The next time you clean out your closet and decide to get rid of clothing items you no longer use, you should try donating them or turning them into a thrift shop.
6. Turn in your old batteries
Thrown-away batteries, chargers, and electronics end up in landfills where they can cause fires, water pollution, and water contamination. Lithium-ion batteries (used in phones, laptops, and other electronics) are especially hazardous when they’re sent to landfills because they get broken down with the rest of the landfill waste.
When lithium batteries are compacted in landfills, they can leak hazardous fluids and even combust. If you end up with an assortment of old batteries, chargers, and electronics that you no longer need, you should try turning them into an electronic store that offers a battery exchange program.
7. Purchase recycled products
Buying recycled products can help conserve the energy used to manufacture products and reduce the amount of waste piling up in landfills. Additionally, purchasing recycled products helps create a demand for more products made of recycled materials, which can help bring more recycled products to our grocery stores for more people to purchase.
The next time you go to the grocery store you should keep an eye out for recycled products – you’re likely to find that they’re more cost-effective than other products.
What can’t I recycle?
If you’re unsure what items you can recycle, you can always check with your local recycling facility to find out what items they accept. Acceptable items for recycling may vary based on where you live –some recycling programs accept plastic lids and bottle caps while others do not.
With that being said, there are some items you should never recycle. The following are items you can’t recycle: paper towels, soiled napkins, toilet paper, bubble wrap mailing envelopes, broken glass, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils, aerosol cans, and Styrofoam.
Where do I turn in my recyclables?
You can check locally or search online to find out what your local recyclable options are. Many regions provide curbside recycling pick-up, and some facilities will even accept recycled bottles in exchange for money.
Is glass recyclable?
For the most part, glass items like jars and kitchen glassware can be recycled. However, broken glass, and glass that has been painted or colored can’t be recycled.
How do I know what plastics to recycle?
Plastic containers that can be recycled have recycling symbols printed on their labels or the containers. The recycling symbol looks like three arrows forming a triangle and can usually be found on the back of the container. Recyclable plastic products also include a triangle with a number in the middle that is typically found on the bottom of the container.
The number in the middle of the triangle will range from 1-7 to represent one of the seven categories of plastic. Plastic is listed in seven different categories to identify which type of plastic it is. Each category indicates what the plastic is made up of, how it should be recycled, and how it can be used to recycle other products.
Is plastic bad?
Yes, and no. While not all plastic is harmful, there are some types of plastics that are not recyclable. Non-recyclable packaging plastics are a serious environmental problem for many different reasons. For starters, non-recyclables are unable to be completely broken down, so they continue to get smaller and smaller until they become plastic particles that animals and fish can accidentally swallow.
Not only is this harmful to animals and fish, but it’s harmful to humans as well, because the plastic particles can end up in the fish and animal food products that we eat. Non-recyclable plastic also contributes to ocean pollution. Littered plastic often ends up in the ocean and is broken down into tiny pieces (or microplastics) that disrupt and kill sea life.
Nano plastics – which are tiny plastic particles – can end up in our drinking water and the air we breathe. Some studies have shown that we may even be unknowingly breathing in tiny plastic particles, which can lead to a lot of different health issues over time.
What else can I do to live more sustainably?
Luckily, there are many ways to live more sustainably that don’t require much effort. You can start by reducing your water usage, eliminating plastic bottles in favor of reusable bottles, eliminating single-use plastic containers, and purchasing sustainable clothing. Another great option is to start composting.
Turning organic waste like food scraps, tea bags, and coffee grounds into compost reduces the amount of waste in landfills and provides nourishment to plants and soil. Compost can be used as an organic replacement to chemical fertilizers, and can even be used to revitalize potted plants by combining it with their soil.
You can easily begin composting at home by purchasing an indoor composting bin to toss in things like eggshells, newspaper, grass clippings, and vegetable scraps.
How does recycling conserve energy?
Recycling conserves energy by saving the energy used to manufacture products and extract raw materials to make new products. According to USA EPA, recycling one ton of office paper can conserve the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline. The same data listed that recycling one ton of aluminum cans conserves the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gasoline or 21 barrels of oil consumed.
What is chemical recycling?
Chemical recycling is a process that incorporates various technologies to break down plastic into raw materials to create new plastic, fuel, or chemicals. During the chemical recycling process, plastics are broken down through the use of a chemical reaction or heat.
Chemical recycling is a much newer process than mechanical recycling, although it has been gaining more popularity as a possible solution for repurposing plastics that are difficult to recycle.
What can be made from recyclables?
Recyclables can be used to make toilet paper, paper towels, paper bags, newspapers, cardboard, jackets, sleeping bags, and even kitty litter. Many brands are creating products that are either partially or completely made of recycled materials as a way to encourage sustainability.