My last post, challenged business and government to increase recycling by 10% over the next two years. We all should take the challenge to increase our recycling efforts a little more every day.
Not only is recycling a good way to reduce our demand for natural resources and energy, it is an easy and effective way to reduce waste disposal costs, increase municipal revenue, create jobs and economic growth, and minimize our emission of greenhouse gases! Did you know that over 40% of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are a result of the life-cycle impacts of products and packaging that become waste? (Reminder: We are in a climate crisis... and right about now, this fine Blue Planet that we call home can use all the help it can get!)
About 80 percent of New Yorkers waste ends up in landfills or is incinerated. Landfills should be the last resort for our waste, but it is currently the most used trash management approach! We should look for ways to decrease our reliance on this type of unsustainable waste disposal and swiftly implement tactics that will help us capture the economic value of materials and gain all of the environmental benefits of recycling along the way.
The most efficient and environmentally friendly way to manage our trash is not hauling it off to some far off place and burying or incinerating it. It is through recycling as well as reducing and reusing the materials that are commonly thrown away. Composting food-waste and other organic materials like yard waste and brush is a necessary component to reducing and recycling our flow of waste as well. In addition, unwanted (consumable) food should be redistributed through food banks or used as animal feed rather than simply thrown away or composted.
The implementation of recycling programs should be a priority for all communities. This should include all stakeholders- from government to residents, schools, businesses and institutions, and also all of our public places, like beaches, parks, athletic fields, playgrounds, sidewalks, streets...
OK, all that talk...and now here is some action! Here are some actions you can take to increase your rate of recycling and reduce your output of trash.
Check your Town's website or give them a call to find out exactly what they accept for recycling, and where you should bring those items for recycling. Don't put anything in the bins that is not on their list! This contaminates the recycling process and creates extra work for the employees. Make sure you clean the recyclables first. Dirty containers smell, attract bugs and vermin, and are gross!!! It could also contaminate the process and render the material non-recyclable. We are all in this together- help your local municipality or hauler to help us become better, more efficient recyclers.
To recycle items that your local program does not collect, look around online to find out where you can recycle almost anything! There are organizations that recycle light bulbs, cigarette butts, plastic bags, electronics, and lots of other stuff! Some places actually buy the items from you or offer other forms of incentives.
Paper and cardboard are America’s most recycled materials by weight. Corrugated cardboard, cereal and tissue boxes, junk mail, catalogs, and phone books are all recyclable. How about that pizza box? You may not be able to recycle your whole pizza box, but you can tear off the top, and as long as it’s grease-free, you can recycle it! Paper products are a commodity and generally bring in the highest resale value for recyclable materials! The more you recycle the more $$ your municipality can earn and the more you can help the planet!
Reduce the amount of unwanted direct mail that you receive. Click here to join a free service to 'opt-out' or un-subscribing to catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, phone books, circulars and more.
You can recycle more than grocery bags at retailers that accept plastic bags for recycling. You can recycle the bags from your dry-cleaning, bread, newspapers, produce, and even shrink wrap and the plastic that is wrapped around toilet paper and paper towel packages. All that 'thin film' plastic is recyclable and is generally accepted wherever plastic bags are accepted for recycling. Please remember that the plastic must be clean and dry. Click here for a good link for more information on plastic recycling.
Reuse, reuse, and reuse! Reusing reduces your impact on the planet. If you don't bring your own bags when you go shopping, reuse the ones you get for other purposes (or bring them back to the store to reuse or recycle on your next trip). Save glass jars and reuse them to store food or other stuff. There are many ways to reuse packaging and containers- just look online for easy ideas.
Keep two trash bags in your car – one for your trash and one for your recyclables. Pre-sorting makes it easier for you to transfer your recyclables into a recycling bin once you’ve reached home. And, as many of us are aware, most municipalities DO NOT OFFER recycling at public places! Don't throw away recyclable materials when you are away from home, because it will cost your town more $$ in disposal costs. In addition, a valuable material will be lost forever to a landfill or incinerator.
Don't throw away usable items! Donate unwanted items to a local thrift shop or call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island at (631) 234-0000 to arrange for a free pick-up. The organization accepts gently used clothing, coats, shoes, toys, and small household items. They distribute some items to families in need and also to other Long Island charities. They also sell some donations to area thrift stores. The Salvation Army also offers free pick-up of clothing or household items by calling (800) SA-TRUCK (800-728-7825). I am pretty sure the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will pick up items as well. Call them at (631) 858-0380 for more information.
Start a compost pile. About 30 percent of our household waste is compostable! You can use the compost in your gardens to enhance the soil, reduce your water and fertilizer usage, and even reduce erosion and stormwater runoff!
Buy recycled products. Look for products and packaging with recycled content to do your part as a recycling-conscious consumer.
Reduce your output of trash by purchasing items with less packaging. Be sure to recycle the packaging after use.
Well, that's about it for now! Hey Patch Readers! Please help us all to learn more about recycling by adding your ideas and suggestions below.
For the Planet: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Compost-Repeat