Do you ever drive around your neighborhood and notice who the big-time recyclers are — or aren’t? Do you ever feel guilty when you put something in the trash because you don’t feel like walking to the recycling bin? Do you toss food scraps in with the other garbage?
If you said yes, you’re not alone.
Only a third of the trash that could be recycled or composted actually is. No wonder the average household trashcan is always overflowing. That means we can all do a bit better. I want to share some simple techniques to put your recycling routine on steroids.
How did my own family go from being mild-mannered, casual recyclers into caped crusaders for recycling? First, I made a list of all the items we use regularly in our home that could be recycled and posted the list prominently. Then, my family and I discussed our plan of attack. We decided that we could make it just as easy to recycle, as it was to toss things in the trash.
To make it as convenient as possible, we placed a collection container everywhere in the house where recyclables are typically generated, but maybe not always near the main recycling bin. Common places are kitchens, bathrooms, and home offices.
We placed boxes under every desk to collect paper. A container went into each bathroom because virtually everything that comes out of the bathroom is recyclable, from toothbrushes, to soap boxes, to shampoo bottles.
And of course, our biggest recycling bin went in the kitchen. A second trash can, a laundry basket, or even an old cardboard box can serve to collect the dry or empty materials for recycling. Every week or two, we empty these containers into our main recycling collection bin.
Then, there are the items that we should recycle but often don’t because they can’t be put in the curbside bin. The list includes fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, electronics, and other household waste like old paints and pesticides. These items can contain toxic materials and should never be dumped in a landfill. Visit DoYourPart.com/Columns for help finding solutions to even the trickiest recycling problems where you live.
So now, what about all the food we trash every week? It might make you sick to your stomach to find out that’s what does happen to about a third of the food we buy. There’s a way to recycle those scraps too and the result is free fertilizer for your lawn and garden. Composting doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. Watch our short video on how to get started at DoYourPart.com/Columns.
And remember, the recycling loop doesn’t end when you put something in your recycling bin. Close the loop by shopping for products that can be recycled, are made from recycled materials or are packaged in material that can be recycled. For example, if you can’t easily recycle juice cartons where you live, choose to buy juice in plastic, aluminum or glass containers, which are easily recycled.
When we all beef up our recycling routines, we’re turning trash into treasure and conserving our natural resources.
Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, author, and founder of DoYourPart, everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terridoyourpart.com and follow DoYourPart on Facebook and Twitter.