With Earth Day coming up this Sunday, April 22nd, we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about recycling. The number one way most people try to give back to the environment is by recycling. But sometimes even the best intentions aren’t good enough. Check out these twelve ways you can adjust your recycling habits to ensure your efforts to help the environment don’t go to waste.
Rinse recyclable food packaging.
It’s tempting to just toss your jars, cans, and bottles into the recycle bin without rinsing them. Recycling is recycling, right? Wrong! Even small traces of food can hurt the recycling process in a big way. Rinse recyclable materials thoroughly and remove any labels before placing them in the bin.
Don’t put items with food residue into the recycle bin.
In the same vein as the above tip, dirty cardboard and paper can contaminate entire batches of recycling. No matter how much you want to put those used pizza boxes in the recycle bin, don’t do it. Even a small amount of grease can hurt your efforts to help.
Remove lids and plastic rings from bottles.
By now, you’ve probably been conditioned to remove the lids and rings from your plastic bottles before tossing them in the recycling. Traditionally, recycling facilities haven’t taken the lids and rings, but some facilities are actually able to recycle them. Check with your local facility to make sure. If it’s a no go, make sure to keep removing those lids and rings from your bottles!
Ask your local recycling center which plastics they accept.
Not all plastics are created equal. If you’re not aware already, plastic materials should have a number on the bottom that designates their level of recyclability. The bin your local facility provides should state which numbers they accept. In many cases, only numbers 1 and 2 are acceptable, but some places take others. If you’re not sure, call your local facility and ask.
Be choosy about the paper you put in the recycling bin.
Shredded paper, for example, isn’t easily recycled. Shredding paper shortens the fibers and lowers the grade from high grade to mixed grade. It’s best to put whole sheets of paper into the bin (without crumpling them or balling them up). If you feel bad throwing your paper shreds into the trash, there are other ways to recycle it. Use it as packing material, burn it for composting, or put it out for bedding for small animals.
Don’t put plastic grocery bags in the recycle bin.
There should also be a note on your recycle bin that tells you not to include plastic bags. Your local grocery store should have a container in the front of the store for recycling plastic grocery bags. If not, ask the manager to put one out. They should be glad to!
Know what types of glass are recyclable.
Just like some plastics, certain types of glass are not recyclable. Items like lightbulbs, Pyrex dishes, laboratory glassware, mirror glass, and window glass aren’t accepted by most recycling facilities. Again, call your local plant to make sure.
Even if your local recycler doesn’t recycle certain items, they may still be recyclable.
Keep in mind that even if your local recycling facility doesn’t accept some items (for example, some only take paper), there might be a place nearby that does. All it takes is a drive to another recycler or a store that accepts them. For instance, many electronics stores have programs where you can drop off your old electronics to be recycled. Even better, some places will pay you for your old phone, computer, or appliance.
Buy products made from recycled materials.
You can influence the recycling process from the other side as well. When buying disposable items, make an effort to look for those made from recycled materials.
Anticipate recycling when shopping.
Likewise, when you’re doing your shopping, try to buy items packaged only in materials that you know can be recycled. Sometimes there’s just no getting around buying non-recyclable items, but being mindful about what you can recycle helps a lot.
Put the “Free Stuff” section of Craigslist to good use.
Don’t trash that free sample of baby formula or the gift basket of scented soaps you’ll never use! Try posting things you won’t use on the “free stuff” section of Craigslist, or find a Mom Swap group on Facebook.
Take time this Earth Day to be grateful for everything our environment provides for us, and then give back by revamping your recycling habits. What other recycling tips do you have? Let us know in the comments section!