Since 1997, on November 15th, communities around the nation have found ways to celebrate America Recycles Day. All year round, Americans have steadily become more and more aware of the benefits of recycling everything they can. Following the USEPA’s slogan of “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” many of us are looking for ways to decrease the amount of waste we produce, buy eco-friendly/green products, and shy away from the disposable, one-use product. It’s easier than ever, and we’ve got some inspirations ideas on how and why to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The benefits of doing so might surprise you!
- Reduce your waste. Choose fewer disposable products, and take care of the products you own. Reducing waste can be as simple as using a metal or hard plastic reusable water bottle instead of the bottled water you normally buy. Compost those veggie scraps and garden waste, if you’re a gardener. Choose to recycle instead of discarding whenever possible. Consider giving away items you no longer use, either donating to charity, or give them away on www.freecycle.org. Turn off the faucet and lights when they aren’t in use. Buy efficient appliances and weather-proof your home. And buy recycled products to support the whole cycle and not waste resources. All of these things can reduce the amount of energy you carelessly use, or waste you send to a landfill. (Have hazardous household waste? SWACO offers times and places to dispose of them safely!)
- Reuse what you can. Choose a reusable product over a disposable one. Buy a metal or hard plastic water bottle and reduce your use of bottled water. Buy a refillable razor and buy fresh blades instead of throwing the whole razor away each time. Use washable plastic plates for parties and picnics, they can last you a lifetime of fun events! Finish a jar of pickles? Wash it out and store something in it…or make homemade refrigerator pickles in the jar! Even some disposable items such as zip-top plastic bags can usually be washed and reused. No use for that old basket? Give it a refresher by using a fun color of spray paint and you have a child’s trash basket or art supply container. Many discardable items can be used in crafts and art projects. Even dirty fishbowl water can be saved and used to water plants…the fish waste is a great fertilizer!
- Recycle whenever you’re able. The City of Columbus has lists online for what can be recycled here, other communities also display that information. Use curbside recycling of glass, plastic, and even yard waste, where available. Look for your closest recycling bins or centers, and plan to make it a weekly errand, just like grocery shopping. Make sure you are recycling properly: containers should be empty and clean, with no food or liquid remaining and boxes should be flattened. Caps and lids are often NOT recyclable, so do check them before tossing them into the recycle bin. Out at a game or park? Take a look around for a recycling bin before you toss your trash…just in case some of your trash is recyclable. When you clean up after a picnic, or clean out your car, consider using two bags; one for trash and one for recyclables. If you have large pieces of metal, or electronics, scrap metal companies will pay for those items. And on vacation in states with a deposit law, save your bottles and cans and collect those deposits. Look, think, and choose before you toss!
- The USEPA lists many benefits of recycling on their website: Reducing the need for landfill space, preventing pollution caused by manufacturing virgin materials, saving energy, and reducing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Nothing surprising about that, but they also list a few benefits that aren’t as commonly cited: Conserving our nation’s natural resources such as water, wood, and minerals, and US economic growth and job competitiveness. Economic growth and job competitiveness? Yes! When items and resources are recycled, they are locally collected and processed, and then the recycled materials are used here in the US for manufacturing! We don’t send items overseas to be recycled, we do it right here at home. So when you recycle, and you BUY recycled products, you are contributing to our nation’s economy and creating and maintaining state-of-the-art manufacturing and recycling jobs here in our own country.
The effort to recycle is getting easier and easier, with tons of local options available to most Americans. You can use or pay for curbside pickup of recycling in many areas, most cities have collection boxes or centers, and there are many businesses such as scrap metal dealers who are interested in some items to recycle. So on this America Recycles Day, on November 15th, stop and think about your efforts to recycle. It’s getting easier to do, it can put change in your pocket, and it really benefits our whole country in many ways. It’s the right thing to do!