We can all agree on the importance of recycling. It’s one of the easiest and most impactful things we can do for the Earth. By recycling, we prevent plastic, glass and paper from making their way into the environment and landfills, thus potentially harming wildlife and negatively transforming our ecosystem . We also save on natural resources, manufacturing cost and harmful emissions!
If enough people join the recycling revolution, then we all move closer to zero-waste goals. And with all the access points out there to recycle, it’s hard to find an excuse not to.
But the trick is to recycle responsibly! All too often, we’ve seen bins overflowing with pizza boxes, plastic grocery bags, lightbulbs and other non-recyclable goods. This not only creates more work for recycling facilities in sorting these non-recyclable items; it also results in consumers having false knowledge of what we are truly purchasing and sending to landfills. We must be careful to recycle with purpose — not as a knee-jerk, feel-good reaction to waste.
We get it, though. Recycling can seem daunting and full of rules, especially when you first start. So, as with any other habit, we advocate for educating yourself about the ins and outs of recycling. We’re giving you tips below on how and what to recycle. Please look into your local recycling facilities for specifics on what you can recycle in your hometown.
How to Start Recycling
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a few recycling options. Some neighborhoods give out small bins to put out with your trash. Others will give you recycling access for a small monthly fee. If you live in a housing community or apartment complex, you may have a communal spot for recycling.
We like to get a trash can with separated compartments — one for trash and one for recyclables. When the recycling bin is in easy reach, we find it’s much easier for family members and guests to properly dispose of their waste. Parents can also get their kids involved by making recycling a game, with prizes for “Most Recycled Items” in a week. It’s important to teach children that it doesn’t have to be difficult or overly time-consuming to make a difference!
Some recycling facilities prefer that you separate your items into newsprint, other paper, plastic and metals. If that’s the case, consider sorting your items right before they get taken away, so as not to take up excess space in your home with multiple bins.
Unfortunately, there are still a few areas of the country that don’t have widespread recycling options for the home. Even still, you can probably drive your recycling to a facility in town or deposit your recycling in certain community spaces (schools, for example, will often have a large bin dedicated to paper recyclables).
When purchasing new items, be sure to check to see if the item is recyclable and/or made from recycled products (often labeled “post-consumer product”). We can ensure that we contribute to the cycle of positive impact by supporting products and brands that embrace sustainable methods.
Research, ask questions of your neighbors and get started! It’s never too late.
What You Can and Can’t Recycle
Plastic: We’ve talked about the hazards of plastic on the environment, so the opportunity to repurpose plastic into something new is a valuable one. The EPA states that plastic contributes to the majority of waste in the United States. Of course, plastic bottles are recyclable, but you can also recycle things you may not have thought of, such as milk jugs, condiment containers and empty household cleaning bottles.
Plastics are divided into four categories:
- #1 (PET) for containers
- #2 (HDPE) for containers
- #4 (LDPE) for bags
- #7 for mixed plastics such as polycarbonates that are not recyclable
Call or look up your local center online to see which plastics they accept.
Be aware: many containers that hold toxic items, like paint, cannot be recycled via traditional recycling facilities and must be disposed of using alternate means. Many recycling facilities will not accept plastic bags, but grocery stores often have a site to dispose of and recycle used bags. Surprisingly, sometimes egg cartons and many types of plastic cups are not accepted, so it’s best to limit your use of these materials or check first with your local recycling center.
Glass: Hosting a party? Make sure your guests are directed to a prominent recycling bin for their beer and wine bottles. Jars for pickles or jam can also be washed out thoroughly and recycled. Lightbulbs and glass drinkware, however, are not recyclable.
Paper and Cardboard: The list is endless here! Think about how many paper products we accumulate, from scraps of notebook paper to newspapers and junk mail. Our Pildora team tries our hardest to maintain a paper-free lifestyle, but until the world around us changes, we are still stuck with an influx of unwanted paper products. You can send that back to be repurposed into more usable goods by recycling.
You can also recycle packing boxes that come with online purchases — just make sure to break them down and flatten to a reasonable size. If you have many boxes, from a move for example, you can cut them to a similar size and tie them together into “bales” of cardboard. One thing you can’t recycle? Cardboard pizza boxes. The grease accumulated on these boxes makes them impossible to recycle.
Aluminum: from takeout containers to soup cans, aluminum is widely used and easily recycled. Just rinse out your containers, remove the labels and pop them in recycling. Easy as that! You can also squish down larger containers to make more room in your bin.
Copper: Though rarely discussed, copper is 100% recyclable. If you have old pipes or fixtures, send them to your recycling plant. The energy savings is incredible!
Prepping Your Items for Recycling
It doesn’t take much to recycle — just a little knowledge and some water. Make sure to compost or dispose of any leftover food products first. Then either shake out any remaining biodegradable particles or rinse out with water.
Some items simply won’t ever be able to be recycled, such as fast food wrappers and, as we mentioned, pizza boxes. The grease that stains those items render them non-recyclable. It’s very important to make sure your items don’t have excess oils on them, as the grease will clog recycling machines. If you can, consider limiting your purchase of items that can’t be recycled.
And of course, there are restrictions on hazardous and toxic materials, as well as electronics. Research your local facilities to find out what exactly can be accepted.