Repurposing/upcycling items (or reusing what they are packaged in, for example — glass jars, egg cartons, coffee tins, paper bags/boxes, and so on) for a different purpose, and/or avoiding purchasing items that need to be recycled themselves or that come in recyclable packaging, are two great ways for you to start living more sustainably. But for the items (or packaging materials) that can’t be upcycled or avoided, recycling is a great practice, and unfortunately, it is a practice that is often overlooked. In fact, while 75% of our trash is recyclable, only 30% actually gets recycled (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — EPA).
So why is it so important for us to recycle? The act of recycling offers many benefits not just to humans, but to the environment as well. Some of these benefits include:
- Recycling saves energy — When you recycle your waste it saves a lot of energy because it cuts back on the mining, extracting, processing, and shipping of raw materials that make our everyday products. Recycled materials have already been processed from their raw form and simply need to be processed into another product. While recycling any reusable material saves energy, some materials save more energy than others. The most common materials to recycle include glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper.
- Recycling helps reduce landfills — When we recycle, we help keep things out of landfills. If we all recycled, our collective efforts could help significantly reduce the size of landfills.
- Recycling helps promote American jobs — In fact, recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. 1.1 million workers are employed throughout our country by the existing 56,000 plus recycling and reuse enterprises.
- Recycling helps preserve our planet’s precious natural resources — Recycling helps conserve key natural materials and protect important resources (some of which are non-renewable).
- Recycling can help you save money — When you recycle or repurpose old products, such as glass honey or jam jars, glass juice bottles, or aluminum coffee tins, you are not as dependent on new products and containers. This simple action can certainly help you cut some expenses.
Chances are that you are already recycling at home, and that’s great. While recycling is undoubtedly important, improper recycling can have an adverse effect, so it’s important for us to understand what can be recycled and how to recycle it. Keep reading below for some to learn some great tips on how you can be a better recycler:
1. Know what items belong in the recycling bin (and what items have special recycling requirements, i.e. batteries, printer ink, and electronics)
The four main categories of curbside recyclables are plastic bottles/jugs (but not their caps — those are too small to be recycled on their own), metal/aluminum cans, paper/cardboard, and more often than not, glass. Plastic bags do NOT belong in your recycling bin. They can get caught in the machinery and cause significant delays and/or damage to the plant’s equipment. While many things can be recycled in theory, for some logistical reason, they cannot be, so please contact your local recycling facility if you have any doubts about whether or not an item can be recycled.
2. Avoid contamination at the recycling plant
This can cause the entire batch to end up in a landfill and is incredibly important to avoid. Always empty, clean, and dry your soup cans, condiment bottles, etc.
3. Look for alternative solutions to items that cannot be recycled in your curbside bin
Even if your curbside recycling doesn’t accept a certain item, there are still plenty of ways you may be able to recycle that item. In fact, lots of things (including light bulbs, ink cartridges, and e-waste) can be recycled at drop-off points provided by your council or at collection bins at businesses and certain retailers. Head to https://earth911.com/ to learn more about this.
4. Purchase recycled products (and/or products that come in recycled packaging)
By buying items that are recycled, you can help reduce waste and the need to extract more virgin material.
5. Don’t just recycle material waste, recycle food waste by composting
Recycling isn’t just about plastic and glass — your food waste can also be put to good use as compost. Composting is an easy way to reduce food waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Curious about what food items can be composted? Then be sure to check out our previous blog post on this subject.
Any time you can recycle a product (or its packaging material) you are doing your part towards creating a more sustainable future for our planet. Now that you’ve learned about some of the actions you can take to improve your recycling planets, we hope that you will put them into practice.
Creating a sustainable future starts with the energy you use in your home. Kiwi Energy offers innovative energy plans while keeping our planet top of mind. Learn more about Kiwi Energy and join us in our mission of creating a more sustainable future.