Recycling from home requires a minimal amount of time and offers a massive benefit to homeowners and the environment. The EPA notes the national recycling rate is about 35%, even a small improvement result in significantly less greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on these statistics, it’s a good thing going green has become significant in popular culture. With more people doing what they can to help the environment, small changes can have significant impacts.
While it’s important to recycle, how you do the deed can affect the impact you have on the environment and your household budget. Here are just a few tips to help you implement recycling in an effective and rewarding way.
Take Time to Clean
The first mistake most recyclers make comes from working in bulk, when homeowners attempt to recycle containers for food, drinks, household cleaners or health care products. While the packages these products come in are typically biodegradable, the grease and oil that remains are not. That’s why many recycling plants do not process these items.
Separate and Sort
Make sure you go through your disposables. Plastic, glass, aluminum, aluminum foil and tin should not be recycled with papers and cardboard items.
Speaking of paper recycling, never think your personal documents are safe from exposure. While most homeowners tend to shred their documents, unless you’re working on your own mulch or compost, shredding reduces the value of your recycle contribution. Instead, try to black out important documents or only recycle your newspapers and junk mail.
Work With the City
Make contact with your local city recycling and trash committee for important times and details. Find out when your city picks up recycling, as sometimes this occurs on a different day than garbage collection. Talk to your local sanitation department about safe handling methods and requirements for hazardous materials like motor oil, pesticides, paint, solvents and electronics.
There may even be beneficial deals or programs to participate in regarding donations of used hardware from your home.
If every U.S. citizen participated and every single recycling program was optimized, landfills would still max out with waste and CO2 emissions. This is because the overwhelming quantity of waste does not consist of glass, cardboard or plastics — but food.
Composting, whether small or large scale, makes a significant dent in this particular area of waste and disposal. While composting has been more common among home gardeners and agriculturalists, anyone serious about recycling can take up the cause.
Why Recycling Correctly Matters
Recycling, by definition, entails a sustainable circuit of use and reuse. In reality, what we identify as recycling should be called downcycling. What a majority of plants and procedures do involves a process of collection, storage and quality loss. While it makes a difference in the global environmental impact, it’s not the cycle of breaking down goods into raw material that can then be reused by consumers and their households.
So, while we continue to use the word recycling, it’s important we downcycle properly for the greatest impact. The improper disposal of certain containers and items can and will slow down the recycling process. Garbage mixed in with recyclables can contaminate other materials. Paper and cardboard, in particular, soak up food residue and becomes unrecyclable. Not only does this affect the environmental gains made, but it can also damage equipment and cause worker injury at city recycling centers.
There are plenty of items and products with clear identification labels that state whether or not things are recyclable, but some important items that should not be recycled include:
- General household waste
- Black bags
- Plastic carrier bags
- Electrical items
- Drinking glasses
- Window and mirror glass
- Kitchen cookware
Keep these items and tips in mind as you go about helping the environment one step at a time.