I don't know about you, but every once in a while I can user a refresher on what can be recycled, what just has to be thrown away, and what other options I have to get rid of the things I don't need or want anymore. In a perfect world, we'd all have very little to get rid of. We would consume just about everything we buy, grow, or make. But unfortunately, that just doesn't happen very often in our consumer driven society. It's been said that while the US only accounts for approximately 5% of the world's population, we create 30% of the world's garbage. A few other statistics I came across recently:
- Less than 50% of post-consumer paper that is discarded is recycled
- 31% of soft drink bottles, 45% of aluminum cans, and 67% of appliances are recycled
- Only 13% of water bottles are recycled. In 2005, approximately 30 billion bottles of water were purchased in the US and about 26 billion of them ended up in landfills.
- Today, the US recycles 32.5% of waste compared to about 5% in 1970 (we're getting better!)
- Approximately 100 million trees are used each year to produce junk mail.
It's pretty easy to recycle and getting easier every day. Here are a few tips about recycling and reusing and links with more information if you're interested in more details:
- Purchase paper and other products made of recycled materials.
- Convenience is key so place collection bins in various places around your home & office, using separate bins for different items so you don't have to separate them later.
- Instead of throwing away all the magazines you subscribe to after you've finished reading them, take them to your gym or share them with your friends (and ask them to pass them on or recycle them when they're done!).
- Reuse what you can. Compost food and grass clippings to use in your garden. Instead of throwing out clothing, home furnishings, and electronics that are still in working condition but are being replaced, donate them to a local Church, school, charity or the Goodwill.
- Use reusable bags when you go shopping. Keep a few in your car and at work in addition to your home so there is always one available when you need it. I found a Chicobag when I was shopping with my sister in July. It folds up easily into it's own little pocket and easily fits in even my small purses. Many grocery stores carry similar bags as well.
Each community has their own guidelines for what they will accept for recycling and how/where they will accept the items, so it's best to check with your local government for details (click here for NYC guidelines), but here is a basic list of items that can, and should be recycled:
- Cardboard (including packing & pizza boxes), newspapers, all papers (magazines, computer paper, notebook paper)
- #1 & #2 plastics (including soda & water bottles, milk jugs and detergent bottles)
- Aluminum and steel cans (rinsed out, of course)
- Glass bottles and jars
Batteries, electronic devices (computers, TVs, cellphones, etc) have special guidelines so definitely contact your local government about these items.
A little known fact - Best Buy will take just about any electronic or household appliance for recycling! There are a few restrictions and guidelines, so check out this site if you're interested. In some cases they'll even come to your home and haul it away! Who doesn't like that?
There are also some community groups that collect cell phones to distribute to women who are victims of domestic abuse so they have an instant link to the police in case they need help. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is one such organization. They will be more than happy to take your old cell phone off your hands when you upgrade to the newest version.
If you're like me, and you go through a lot of pairs of running shoes, some running stores collect used shoes for various causes - sometimes to be crushed and used as materials for running tracks and other times they donate the shoes to people who need them. This Thursday, Super Runner's Shop in NYC will be collecting shoes for 'Share Your Soles' who then sends them all of the world for those in need. On this day, you'll also receive $25 off your next shoe purchase at the store. For my family and friends in Michigan, Heart and Soul, a group at Michigan State, provides a very similar service.
I'd love to hear your tips on recycling, so please post them if you'd like to share!