A lot of us already set aside plastic milk jugs, glass bottles and old newspapers for the recycling bin. But with Earth Day approaching, it doesn’t hurt to ask: Could we all be doing more? A lot of times, our good intentions to help the planet are thwarted by recycling incorrectly or simply not knowing what can be recycled. If you’re looking to pitch in more – or even to just get started! – check out our easy-to-follow tips.
Start at the Supermarket
Assess your shopping habits and think about the items you buy that produce the most waste. Look at foods packaged in unnecessary plastic wrap or products in needlessly excessive packaging. Be more mindful and decide if there’s an eco-friendlier way to purchase what you need. For example, you can buy loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones.
If you’re stumped about how to recycle certain essential items like empty detergent containers or used air fresheners, check out TerraCycle, an innovative recycling company that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle waste and offers a number of programs and initiatives to make the process easier. For instance, Tide laundry detergent bottles and caps and Febreze FABRIC, ONE, PLUG and CAR products are all fully recyclable through TerraCycle drop-off locations around the country, and they also offer an at-home recycling program for these products.
Know How to Recycle Plastic Bags
Shoppers worldwide use 500 billion single-use plastic bags each year, which often become part of the estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in our oceans today. Because they take so long to break down, they repeatedly contribute to the more than 100,000 marine creatures that die each year after getting tangled in plastic.
You might already know the impact that discarded plastic bags have on the environment, but did you know that they usually can’t be processed by regular recycling plants? Instead, separate plastic bags from the rest of your recycling and drop them off at a special plastic bag collection point – most grocery stores have them.
Make Your Morning Coffee
You’re probably conscious of everyday recycling at home, but sometimes that mindset gets pushed aside when you’re out and about. Most disposable coffee cups, for example, are lined with polyethylene, which makes them nonrecyclable. It is estimated that every minute more than 1 million disposable cups are tossed in the trash. Invest in a reusable coffee cup instead, and use a drop of Dawn dish soap to wash it after every use so it’s ready whenever you need it.
Repair, Share and Reuse
Sweden is leading the way in recycling – it has sent only 1 percent of its waste to landfill since 2011. Much of their success comes from the Swedish ethos of miljönär-vänlig – a play on the Swedish words for environment and millionaire that suggests people can save cash as well as the environment by making, borrowing and recycling. Internalize this idea and repair any damaged clothes, or have a dress swap party with your friends so your unwanted garments can find a new wearer. You can also extend the life of your clothing by washing it with Downy fabric conditioner, which helps prevent pilling, stretching and fading in fabrics. And think of crafty ways to use items you’d otherwise toss: Jam jars can be turned into candle holders, and old tights can be used to store onions.
Wash and Squash
By cleaning your recycling before it goes in the bin, you reduce contamination and improve recycling efficiency. First, scrape off or remove any food leftovers or liquid. Then add a drop of Dawn dish soap and a small amount of water to containers and jugs, and swish vigorously for a few seconds before rinsing. Crush metal cans and squash plastic bottles to squeeze out any excess air, and flatten cardboard boxes.
Think Beyond Paper, Tin and Glass
Before throwing out an item, consider whether it can be recycled. Mattresses are full of valuable materials and can be dropped off at your local recycling center, along with many small electrical appliances. Look for battery recycling boxes in your area, and ask your local optician’s office about recycling old reading glasses. Wrapping paper can be recycled as long as you remove the sticky tape and it doesn’t have foil or glitter on it. Unfortunately, broken drinking glasses can’t be processed with your empty jars because the glass melts at a different temperature, and mixing in broken glass with recyclable glass can cause the whole container to be rejected. Instead, check with your local recycling center if you’re unsure.
Are you a recycling superhero saving the planet one recycled item at a time? Let us know your best recycling tip in the comments section below!