Do You Even Recycle? Pt. I

folder_openEducation, Environment, Recycling

Are you serious??? Another article on recycling? Aren’t there enough of these? Damn right! Repetition equals perfection 😛 . Together, everyone doing their part can have an impressive impact on the reduction of worthless trash. In my last post I wrote about how the average human generates roughly 2,153 lbs. of trash annually, much of which can be composted if we take simple timeless steps to incorporate composting into our daily/weekly routine. Through this two part post, I want my readers to take a deeper dive into this concept of waste, the recycling industry, and the small steps we can take at home to ensure smart recycling is an easy part of our day-to-day routine. So why recycle? I don’t think I can sum it up any better then this video:

Let’s RE…..Cycle!

I envision this as a series of posts further exploring and uncovering ways to drive efficiency around each of the “RE’s”. Here’s the way I see it…

  • First, if you can REDUCE your consumption of wasteful products then obviously do that! Bringing a reusable cup to Starbucks to “reduce” your single-use waste is a perfect example!

  • Second, REUSE or better yet RE-PURPOSE…If you are able to give an item directed for the trash a second life, then why not???

  • Third, RECYCLE as a last resort. I mean, who are we kidding? Sometimes its unavoidable in our modern day world.

I know we could have a deep discussion around each one of these “RE’s”, so we are only going to focus on one of them in this post. Given this blog is all about the SMALL steps we can take to be more environmentally conscious, I think improving our recycling habits is an EASY first step!

“Screw it…throw it in the blue bin and someone else will figure it out!”

Have you ever had that thought? I know I have. Unsure if something can be recycled, we figure it is better to just throw it in the recycling bin. At the very least there is a chance it can be recycled. I hate to burst that bubble BECAUSE I would love to think that Waste Management is out there figuring out how to recycle all of the single-use crap that, in many cases, we are forced to buy. UNFORTUNATELY that is not reality and this mentality can often do more harm than good. Let’s take a second to relive an often common end to a legendary night!…


I know I’ve said that while Ubering home from a stellar night out! I stumble through designing a “gourmet” 5 topping pizza, all while trying not to give up hope during the check out process. The next morning, looking at a half eaten pizza covered in pineapple, onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage, I think to myself “what the did I order last night?”. Trying to regain some level of decency I recycle the pizza box BECAUSE obviously cardboard can be recycled and I want to do the right thing… YEAH!.. NOPE.

In many cases, contaminated recyclables can do significantly more harm than good. What I have come to learn through personal education is that a dirty item not only can’t be recycled BUT there is a very good chance that it is “contaminating” all material it comes in contact with. I recently read a very interesting article that went into detail about the negative impact of single stream recycling systems. Quoting the National Waste and Recycling Association, the author highlighted that more then 25% of all recyclable material is sent to the dump due to contamination. This article is a little cynical BUT what I took away from it is that improving our recycling system is in the hands of the individual consumer. Start to think about what you throw into the recycling bin…Chinese food container, yogurt cup, ketchup bottle, detergent bottle, etc… Are you cleaning/washing them out before recycling? My main point here is that uninformed recycling practices can do more bad then good.

Yo trash is coming back! 😉

Ever wonder why you haven’t heard of this? Why this hasn’t been a bigger problem before now? Because for decades we have shipped our trash overseas to become another country’s problem! You may have seen recently that Malaysia is starting to ship waste back to the country of origin or that China is no longer buying lower quality recycled material. Yeah the waste problem is catching up to the developed world! Until companies start to figure out more sustainable solutions I say we incorporate simple steps to tackle this problem at the personal level! (stay tuned for part II where I will dive deeper into this topic.)

To master a skill one must understand its origin…

Do you thoroughly understand what all of this raw “recycled” material looks like? Did you know there are 7 categories of plastic in production (not including bio-plastic)? This is a whole other conversation for a later date, BUT it doesn’t hurt to start learning about the basic materials and whether your system can handle them. Here is a good chart that I pulled from my county’s website (simply searching recycling in Arlington county) breaking down recycled/non-recycled material:

At the very least, I hope this post has inspired you to make a few small changes in your day-to-day routine. Stay tuned for upcoming articles and PLEASE feel free to comment or question! If you disagree or have something to add, I would LOVE to hear it!!!

Interesting Read:

U.S. Recycling Industry Is Struggling To Figure Out A Future Without China


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