Happy Earth Day! I know I’m a day early but I just couldn’t contain my excitement! Is there a better cause for celebration than the Earth?! In honor of our great planet I’ve lined up a very special post- recycling! We all, of course, know how important it is to recycle. It has many major benefits: it helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saves energy, conserves resources and even contributes to the economy by creating jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries. All in all, I think we can agree it’s a good thing. The trouble is, there is some confusion surrounding what is and isn’t actually recyclable. So, this Earth Day, I hope to shed a little light on the subject. Here is a breakdown of a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to recycling.
When we think of recycling metals generally we think of cans and tins. Both steel and tin cans can (and should) be recycled. These include your average beverage cans, fruit and veggie tins, coffee tins and soup cans to name a few. In fact, your average aluminum can (see beverage can) can actually be recycled, processed and returned to your grocery shelf as a brand-new can in as quickly as 60 days! That’s a super-fast turnaround! The good news doesn’t end there; according the EPA “recycling just 1 ton of aluminum cans conserves more than 207 million BTU, the equivalent of 36 barrels of oil, or 1,665 gallons of gasoline.”
But why stop there? Another, oft forgotten, recyclable metal product is aluminum foil. Aluminum foil made from 100% recycled material is available for purchase at most grocery stores (and is made from a manufacturing process that uses five percent less energy. Whoo hoo!!). This, and all, aluminum foil is recyclable. The only caveat- make sure it’s clean before you put it in the recycling bin. Easy fix! Wipe it clean (no food particles or it might contaminate the rest of the haul) or rinse it off and throw it in your recycling bin. Done!
Most people are pretty familiar with recycling paper goods. The EPA states that “paper products make up about 71 million tons (or 29 percent) of the municipal waste stream”. Because of the familiarity, I won’t spend too much time here but items like cardboard, office paper, newspaper, junk mail, phone books and magazines can all be recycled. There are some misconceptions regarding magazines and glossy paper but, it seems, there are no restrictions with these items and recycling them.
There are restrictions, however, on the following (used) items: pizza boxes, napkins, paper towels and paper plates. These items, when used, especially when contaminated with food or liquid, can contaminate the entire batch of recyclables with their grease and oils, making them and the rest of the recyclables they are mixed with, essentially, unusable. Best to put these items in the trash instead.
Glass is the classic recyclable. It even sounds pretty when you put it in the bin- like a musical number about saving the planet. But not all glass can be recycled. The following items should not be placed into your recycling bin: ceramics (i.e. dishware, ovenware, decorative items etc.), crystal glass, heat-resistant glass (Pyrex), mirror or window glass, and light bulbs.
Remember, any glass you put into your bin for recycling should be clean, uncontaminated, dry and whole (this means NO broken glass!).
Plastics- our final (recycling) frontier. There are so many different options when it comes to plastic containers, how do you decide what is acceptable to put in the bin? According to the Waste Management website “recycle by shape! Bottles, jars, and jugs – is the best way to know what is accepted.” And, some good news, bottle caps? They are A-Okay! But, be sure to watch out for those plastic grocery and produce bags. These bags are not recyclable and the presence of them in recycling plants can cause the entire plant to delay their recycling efforts or even shut down while sorting the mess out! Not worth it!
Recycling is obviously important- recycling the right way is essential! A single dirty or contaminated product can result in an entire lot (thousands of pounds) of recyclables to be rerouted to a landfill instead of getting recycled.
If done correctly, recycling is a vital part of our sustainability efforts. This Earth Day, I hope you are all able to go out and enjoy yourselves and the loveliness that is our planet. Spread the word! Take some of these tips along with you, share them and we can all work together towards a cleaner, greener world!