Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Reflective Recycling Sign
Since 1997, on November 15th, neighborhoods around the country have found ways to celebrate America Recycles Day. Every day, we have steadily become more acutely aware of the benefits of recycling everything we can. Following the USEPA’s slogan of “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” most of us are trying to reduce our waste, buy eco-friendly/green products, and make the switch to reusable rather than the disposable product. With the popularity of the “green movement”, the how and why of reduce, reuse, and recycle have become easier than ever. And the benefits give back to all of us!

Reduce your trash and your carbon footprint. Choose reusable rather than disposable products, and repair rather than replace. Reducing trash can be simple things like using metal water bottles instead of bottled water, and repairing your old lamp with some advice in the hardware store instead of buying a new one. Composting is a fun and easy way to reduce your waste AND improve your garden. Really done with an item, but it still works? Consider giving it away on Turn off the water and electronics when they aren’t in use. Buy energy star appliances and weather-proof your home. Buying recycled products supports the recycling process, and saves resources of all kinds. All of these ideas save resources, energy, or landfill space, sometimes all three! (Have hazardous household waste? Most communities offer hazardous waste collection days or centers, check local websites.

Reuse items and resources. Choose a reusable product over a disposable one. Buy a refillable razor and buy fresh blades instead of throwing the whole razor away each time. Buy durable plastic plates in bulk just ONCE for events; they can last for a lifetime of picnics and parties! Consider going back to cloth napkins and tablecloths. Finish a jar of spaghetti sauce? Wash it and use it as storage, or a vase. Normally disposable items such as zip-top plastic bags can usually be washed and reused. With the new spray paints that stick to plastic, even an old bucket can gain a new life: Give a new look with a fun color and you’ve got a trash can or storage bin. Many small things you think of as trash can be used in crafty art projects. Even dirty fishbowl water can be dumped into the garden or houseplants…the fish waste is a fertilizer!

Recycle everything you can. The majority of larger cities and towns have either curbside recycling or drop-off centers or bins. Check your community websites for how and where. Use curbside recycling of all recyclables and yard waste whenever available. Make dropping off the recyclables a habit, just like any other weekly task. Make sure you are recycling properly: containers should be empty and clean, with no food or liquid remaining and boxes should be flattened. Check items such as caps, lids, and wrappers to make sure they are recyclable in your community. When you’re out of the house and thinking of tossing a can or bottle, look around: So many of our parks, museums, and sporting events now offer recycling bins. When you clean up after a family outing, or clean out your car, consider separating the debris for trash and recyclables. If you have old steel, cast iron, copper or aluminum, or electronics, local scrap metal companies may pay for them. Go on vacation where there is a deposit law? Save those bottles and cans and collect those deposits. Stop and choose before you toss!

The USEPA lists benefits of recycling on their website: Reducing landfills, preventing pollution, saving energy, and reducing carbon emissions. Stuff we all know, but kind of distant to our day-to-day lives. They also list two benefits that are much closer to home: Conserving our natural resources, and encouraging our economy and creating jobs. Economy and jobs? Yes! When we recycle, the items are locally collected and processed, and then used here in the US in manufacturing! So when you recycle, and when you buy the recycled stuff, you are contributing to our local and national economy and creating and maintaining state-of-the-art manufacturing and recycling jobs right here at home.

Recycling is getting easier for everyone, with many ways and places in most communities. From curbside, to the bins next to the grocery store or firehouse, it’s readily available to almost all of us. And for the bigger or more unusual items, there are scrap metal dealers and electronic recycling firms who will PAY YOU to recycle. So on this America Recycles Day, November 15th, think about beginning a new habit, or intensifying your efforts at your old habit of reducing, reusing, and recycling.. It’s simple, it sometimes pays, and it really benefits our communities and economies directly. It’s the right thing to do!