Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Just don't eat the plastic ones. Making plastic marine sculptures out of collected litter won't reduce the source of plastic pollution, but it's a terrific way to keep plastic out of our waters. It's also a great way to get people involved and interested in reducing one-time plastic use and thinking creatively about doing more. Read on to learn more ways to do the same.
REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE
It rolls of the tongue pretty easy in this order and that's perfect, because we should be thinking in that order.
When you throw something away, what does "away" mean to you? When we throw something away it's usually because we have no use for it any more or we really just want it away from us. Perhaps it stinks or it's just old, ugly or is no longer useful. Maybe it's hazardous or dangerous, so we want some distance. We all know, whatever it is, it won't just disappear and cease to exist any longer. So, we throw it away, only to become part of an environment far from us. Unfortunately, it will become part of someone's or something's environment. Sadly, that can spell disaster for other's lives. On the bright side, we can modify our purchasing habits by considering the end-life of the products we buy. Think creatively and keep in mind that there are manufacturers out there like Newly, Inc. that specialize in recyclable materials.
Reducing and Reusing Basics
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy - raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.
Benefits of Reducing and Reusing
Prevents pollution by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
Helps sustain the environment for future generations
Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
Allows products to be used to their fullest extent
Ideas on How to Reduce and Reuse
Buy used. You can find everything from clothes to building materials at specialized reuse centers and consignment shops. Often, used items are less expensive and just as good as new.
Look for products that use less packaging. When manufacturers make their products with less packaging, they use less raw material. This reduces waste and costs. These extra savings can be passed along to the consumer.
Buying in bulk, for example, can reduce packaging and save money.
Buy reusable instead of disposable items. Look for items that can be reused; the little things can add up. For example, you can bring your own silverware and cup to work, rather than using disposable items.
Maintain and repair products, like clothing, tires and appliances, so that they won't have to be thrown out and replaced as frequently.
Borrow, rent or share items that are used infrequently, like party decorations, tools or extra chair and tables.
One person's trash is another person's treasure. Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools or clothes, try selling or donating them. Not only will you be reducing waste, you'll be helping others. Local churches, community centers, thrift stores, schools and nonprofit organizations may accept a variety of donated items, including used books, working electronics and unneeded furniture.
Resources for Donating Specific Goods and Materials
A quick Google search and you find a group to take just about anything, but here are a few for starters:
Contact your local schools and ask what donations they can use
Donate used electronics. List of manufacturers
Donate building materials. Habitat for Humanity
Find a cause needing donations: Charity Watch
There's a lot more to recycling than just single use plastic bottles, bags and aluminum cans. A large percentage of what we purchase and consume has some potential for recycling. We can make that percentage higher by being conscious about the products we purchase and whether one product is better suited for recycling. We may not think about them often, but some of the items we should be recycling include old tires, clothing, motor oil, food scraps, cell phones, laptops, batteries, yard clippings and so much more. We'll explore some of them here and offer some tips to help you recycle them.
Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycling can benefit your community and the environment.
Benefits of Recycling
Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators
Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals
Increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials
Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
Supports American manufacturing and conserves valuable resources
Helps create jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States
You can earn Money
Steps to Recycling Materials
Recycling includes the three steps below, which create a continuous loop, represented by the familiar recycling symbol. Of course, our first objective is to reduce our sources, then reuse and lastly recycle.
Step 1: Collection Processing
There are several methods for collecting recyclables, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and deposit or refund programs.After collection, recyclables are sent to a recovery facility to be sorted, cleaned and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing.Recyclables are bought and sold just like raw materials would be, and prices go up and down depending on supply and demand in the United States and the world.
Step 2: Manufacturing
More and more of today's products are being manufactured with recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include the following:
Newspapers and paper towels
Aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers
Plastic laundry detergent bottles
Recycled materials are also used in new ways such as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads or recovered plastic in carpeting and park benches.
Step 3: Buy Recycled
You help close the recycling loop by buying new products made from recycled materials. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for the products that can be easily recycled. Of course, that can be hard to do at times, especially with misleading marketing claims and labels.
What do the symbols mean on the bottom of plastic bottles and containers?
These symbols were created by plastic manufacturers to help people identify the kind of plastic resin used to make the container. This can help you determine if the container can be accepted by your local recycling program. The resin number is contained in a triangle, which looks very similar to the recycling symbol, but this does not necessarily mean it can be collected for recycling in your community.
What are the most common items that I can put into my curbside recycling bin?
Cardboard & paper
Food boxes & mail
Beverage and food cans
Glass and plastic bottles, jars, jugs and caps
Never dump your used motor oil down the drain — the used oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water. By recycling your used oil, you not only help keep our water supply clean, but help reduce American dependence on foreign oil. It takes 42 gallons of crude oil, but only one gallon of used oil, to produce 2.5 quarts of new motor oil. Many garages and auto-supply stores that sell motor oil also accept oil for recycling. Check out our resources on learning to manage, reuse or recycle your used oil. You can also find a motor oil recycler near at Earth911.
How do I know what my local recycling options are? Contact your local county or municipality to determine your local recycling options. Additionally, please check out the I Want to Be Recycled website for more information.
Can I recycle plastic bags and wrap/film? If so, how and where? First, be sure to cut off the zippers (if necessary). Many grocery and department stores will accept plastic bags and wrap/film. Ask your local grocery and department store, or visit the Plastic Film Recycling website or Earth911 to find a location nearest you that recycles plastic bags and plastic wrap/film.
Can I recycle Food and Drink Containers?
Styrofoam: While most recyclers don’t accept Styrofoam, check with your local recycling provider first to be certain.
Egg cartons: It depends on the material of the carton. Check with your local recycling provider first to be certain.
Can I recycle materials with food residue or does the material have to be perfectly clean?
Generally, plastic, metal and glass materials must be empty and rinsed clean of food debris before being recycled. Paper materials must be empty, clean and dry before being recycled. Wet paper/food-soiled paper products may be compostable.
What should I do with dirty diapers? Generally, you should flush the excrement down the toilet and then place the diaper in the trash. Also, consider using reusable cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. You can also check with your local solid waste agency/recycling provider first.
Planning is the KEY above all else
Remember the upside-down triangle at the start up this post? Try thinking of it as a funnel. At the top, we begin with "source reduction". The best way to reduce our waste source is to plan. Plan ahead to reduce single use packaging and products that can't or are difficult to recycle. It's not always easy, so start with a few products that you commonly buy and determine which products could replace them or how you can utilize reusable packaging in lieu of the single use or non-recyclable packaging
The next part to this post will focus on some of the more hazardous materials around our homes. You can catch the continuation and other environmental news and tips by signing up for the Green Home blog here.