While everyone is home and settling in to new routines, it’s an excellent time to implement new practices with the world’s health in mind. We’ve seen evidence that the air has become cleaner in large cities with citizens in isolation. In China we have seen that emissions are already on the rise as they start to go back to work. So our question is how can we continue making an effort to save our little blue planet without putting everything on pause?
The first thing to do is look up your local recycling facility. They should have a list available of recyclables accepted for curbside pickup. Some counties even have a list of resources and local businesses who will collect things like packing peanuts and unwanted paint. Check the resources you have and make the most of it!
The best way to promote and encourage recycling is to buy products that have already been recycled. This shows plastic producers that consumers aren’t interested in using what is known as “virgin plastic” or plastic that has not been recycled before. It is a more expensive process, resulting in a higher price than the generic brand most people will reach for with consideration to their wallet. It’s the price of keeping our planet healthy and we think it’s a no-brainer. Preserve.eco is a company making products out of #5 recyclable plastics that have been collected from Whole Foods yogurt containers and other post-consumer plastics.
If you have to buy plastic try to buy #2 recycling plastic. This plastic is used to make milk jugs and water bottles. It is the safest and most commonly/easily recycled. Alternatives are to carry your own reusable water bottle (who doesn't these days) and to take advantage of your local dairy farm. Smiling Hill Farm in Maine bottles their milk in glass and can be redeemed for $2 at grocery stores. Buy in bulk at natural food stores and always bring bags to the grocery store for produce- better yet shop at farmers markets and support local!
Surprising items you didn't know were recyclable:
Dentists recommend you get a new toothbrush every four months. That’s a lot of toothbrushes over a lifetime and most end up in landfills. We recommend you buy a natural toothbrush to begin with. There are great ones made out of bamboo and you can brush guilt free, knowing it will compost when you’re done using it! You can also save your retired toothbrush for household cleaning projects. If you have an electric toothbrush, it MUST be recycled because it contains a rechargeable battery. See the battery section below.
Check with your local waste district to see if they are hosting a collecting program. Otherwise, there are many programs where you can mail in your single use batteries to be recycled.
Call2Recycle is a nation-wide program geared toward helping citizens find a place for their reusable batteries.
If you've recently taken part in a home makeover, as many of us are during unexpected down time, chances are you have some carpet that is going to be thrown in a dumpster. Don't do that! You can get help from Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) to locate where that old carpet can be recycled!
For those who wear glasses, most get a new prescription every couple of years. That's a lot of glasses in one lifetime so it's best to have a plan for outdated frames. Lions Club International is a great organization that donates glasses to developing nations.
First see if you can reuse the materials when you're sending care packages or holiday gifts. Always check with your local recycling and waste program before putting packing materials in your blue bin. Plastic inflated packaging should be deflated and can be recycled with plastic bags. Shipping companies will sometimes accept clean materials like packing peanuts and styrofoam. Call your local UPS or Mail it 4 U to see what their policies are!
Most runners get a new pair of kicks every 500 miles. There are several programs in existence to recycle their unwanted sneakers, apart from donating them to Goodwill. Nike has a Reuse-A-Shoe Program which recycles shoes into other sport plastics like rubberized surfaces of running racks.
Crayons are not biodegradable and they clog our landfills. Thanks to The Crayon Initiative over 40 million crayons have been rescued from our landfills and have been donated to children's hospitals!
Many cities offer host a electronic waste recycling program annually. This is a day when Rotary Clubs and other organizations take your old computers, iPods, televisions and other electronics and dispose of them properly. Look up when your town is hosting an event like this or look up nationwide companies that do.
Recycling programs differ from state to state but other nations have policies in place that are much more strict than the guidelines we have in America. For instance, in Sweden, only 1% of waste is sent to landfills. Their recycling program is advanced and involves converting trash and recycling into energy, providing heat and electricity to one million homes. Many countries even import trash from abroad because they don’t produce enough waste. China is no longer accepting recycling from other countries due to their National Sword policy from 2018, which left the US and others scrambling to find a new market. Unfortunately, in many cases this policy and shift led US communities to discontinue their recycling programs all together, leading citizens to toss what could have been recycled to the trash.
The United States definitely does not have a system as advanced as Germany, which recycles 56.1% of it’s waste. While we campaign for more enforced recycling and waste laws, there are some things we can do with the system we do have. Let us know what you're doing to help the planet! Reach out to us on social media- we can't wait to hear from you!
Fun Fact: Pizza boxes are not recyclable! If they have any amount of grease they will go to landfill. Think twice before putting it in your blue bin! Alternative: compost it!