Recycling is fantastic for the planet, and an all-around virtuous thing to do. But the sad fact is that many people won’t make the effort to recycle when doing so becomes too inconvenient and time consuming.
Fortunately, recycling doesn’t have to be a chore, and once you know more about the subject you’ll discover its much easier to recycle than you ever realized.
Why do we need to recycle?
In western countries, about 55 percent of waste ends up in landfills, while just one-third is recycled (with the remainder ticketed for incineration, another environmentally problematic “solution”) .
On a global basis, more than two billion tons of waste are simply discarded each and every year, which is absurd when you consider that the vast majority of this rubbish could be recycled or eliminated altogether, if sincere efforts to reduce waste were undertaken by manufacturers, consumers and communities .
Beyond helping to solve the aesthetic and environmental problems associated with landfills, recycling has other important benefits.
They include :
- Reduction in the consumption of valuable natural resources, including wood, water, precious metals and minerals.
- Increased economic security, based on expanded domestic availability of vital materials.
- Reduction in pollution associated with the mining, excavation, transportation and the processing of raw material resources.
- Decreases in energy usage and carbon emissions during the production process.
- Creation of new jobs in the recycling industry, none of which are likely to be outsourced to other nations.
What can be recycled?
Assuming you are ready, willing and able to join the recycling movement, here’s some excellent news: virtually anything you purchase and use as a consumer can, conceivably, be recycled.
The list of materials most appropriate for recycling includes :
- Plastic bottles
- Newspapers and magazines
- Ink cartridges
- Electronic equipment
Organic waste can also be “recycled” as compost, and many cities (and nations) have now set up compost collection programs to help facilitate this process .
Composting is a great activity to undertake on your own, as well, if you need fresh, nutrient-rich soil for your garden or houseplants.
Simple ways to recycle household waste
No matter how sincere your commitment to recycling, the chances are you won’t sustain your efforts if there is too much effort or inconvenience involved. Recycling always makes sense for the planet, and you should arrange things so that it always makes sense for you, too.
Keeping it simple is the key, and here’s how you do it:
#1 Find out what materials your community accepts, and encourage them to do more
If you can recycle at your curbside, or in your housing or apartment complex, that is ideal, and an opportunity you should never pass up. Recycling stations near your home, in local parks or on types of government property, are another great option if you can’t have certain items removed where you live.
Either way, you should educate yourself about your community’s current recycling programs, while using your voice as citizen to push for an expansion of those initiatives.
If you know the issue well and can list all the benefits of recycling off the top of your head, you’ll have a better chance of making an impression when you speak at city council meetings, or call the mayor’s office to make your voice heard.
#2 Use multiple bins at home
It will be much easier to get things recycled if you have them properly sorted and separated ahead of time. You can purchase recycling bins that are already labeled, or make your own bins from materials available at home.
You can find many different recycling bins for sale on Amazon. For example, the simplest model with high customer rating is this one:
Either way, be sure to have enough containers around to reflect the diversity of the materials you’d like to recycle.
Recycling is a state of mind as well as a physical process, and if you have bins around for everything you’ll be conscious of where everything you use should go, and you’ll be less likely to throw potentially recyclable material into the trash unconsciously or by mistake.
To make sure your bins stay filled, encourage everyone in the family to participate in weekly or monthly sweeps around your property, looking for any recyclable materials you can find.
#3 Make your purchasing decisions with recycling in mind
Before you buy anything, simply ask yourself: can these items or materials be recycled? And if no, are there alternatives that can be?
Pre-planned recycling by its very nature will add efficiency and consistency to your recycling activities, and they will help establish that recycling state of mind that keeps you focused on the greater mission.
One way to ensure you’re promoting recycling in your consumer choices is to purchase products made from recycled materials whenever possible, since these items can usually be recycled themselves many times.
#4 Set up recycling programs in your neighborhood and community
Instead of waiting for city hall to act, why not get together with friends and neighbors and set up your own recycling programs?
Responsibility for collection and transportation to local recycling facilities can be shared, along with any expenses accrued, so that no one is unduly burdened for their participation in the plan.
Grassroots recycling programs help spread the good word about the benefits of recycling, while also applying some subtle yet effective peer pressure that will encourage everyone to remain diligent and on their best behavior. As an extra incentive, you can even offer prizes to those who contribute the most time or recyclable materials during weekly or monthly collection drives.
#5 Do your research to find out where you can recycle in your area
Your local waste management agency should be your first call. They can tell you all about your local programs, what they can accept and where they will accept it. They’ll can also give you all the information you need about how to repair or package the products or materials you’d like to recycle (as can any recycling facilities that you plan to patronize).
Next, do some research on the Internet to help identify private and public recycling enterprises or initiative in your area, both immediate and extended (say, within 100 miles) to find out where you can take any and all products and materials you have available to recycle.
If you live in North America, the website of the nonprofit organization Earth911 is an excellent place to start. They maintain a comprehensive database of facilities that accept over 350 different materials and products for recycling, many of which you probably never dreamed could actually be recycled .
How is recycled material reused?
The market for recycled materials is vast and growing larger all the time .
Regardless of where you live, you likely have access to tens of thousands of products available online or from local retailers that are made partially or entirely made from recycled materials, most of which are labeled as such to avoid confusion.
In some instances, goods or materials submitted for recycling might be repaired, restructured, remodeled or repurposed instead, allowing for their direct reuse.
While some energy expenditure is involved in the processing of recycled materials, it is tiny in comparison to the energy expenditure required to make things with virgin materials.
The manufacture of new products from recycled materials like aluminum, plastic, newsprint, glass and steel generally saves from a few hundred to a few thousand kilowatt-hours of energy consumption per ton of materials used .
From the standpoint of society, the environmental impact of recycling may be paramount. But manufacturers love to use recycled materials because they are cheaper to access or purchase, and the tremendous energy savings gained from recycling are ultimately passed on to retailers and consumers in the form of cost savings and lower prices.
When you recycle, everyone wins
Recycling is easy, if you educate yourself about the possibilities and plan ahead to make sure you don’t let opportunities pass you by.
Your enthusiasm for this eco-friendly practice is matched by the eagerness of private and public recyclers, and manufacturers, to get their hands on as much recyclable material as they can find—an eagerness that often leaves them ready to compensate you financially for the materials and products you provide .
Recycling is a winning option for everyone involved, and you can join this winning team with just a little effort and a well-organized approach.