Do You Even Recycle? Pt II

folder_openEducation, Environment

Implement it…Practice it…Preach it!

AMEN! I hope you are gearing up for a fun Super Bowl party and I am sure you are strategizing on what to do with all of those empty beer cans and chip bags 🙂 . In Part I of “Do You Even Recycle”, we touched on some of the misconceptions of the recycling industry. In Part II, I wanted to highlight the steps we can take to confront this issue and optimize the life of our household waste. Here is how I run my recycling system from start to finish.

  1. Don’t Use It! 🙂 I know this is not always an option BUT I promise you, a little effort will go a long way. I guarantee that we all can identify plenty of times when there was an easy alternative to avoid single-use trash. Bringing produce bags to the grocery store, taking home leftovers in reusable Tupperware, not relying on cups/utensils when picking up lunch at work, carrying a backpack/tote bag so you don’t have to take a bag at checkout, etc… Check out my post on easy hacks to avoid daily single-use waste.

  2. Buy products with more sustainable packaging. Buying a beverage in an aluminum can vs. a plastic bottle (aluminum has a MUCH higher recycling rate), looking for products packaged in paper/cardboard vs. plastic, etc… Becoming more conscious about how things are packaged will simplify your recycling process!

  3. Educate yourself & others on what material is recyclable. Don’t take what companies tell you as law! I HATE green-washers! Just because they put the recycling logo or compostable logo on their packaging doesn’t mean it can be recycled/composted. This is the sad truth and unfortunately not something that is going to be changed anytime soon. As an example, I think every greasy pizza box I get has a recycling logo on it.

  4. Clean & Rinse! This is an important step. For a working adult in the modern world, waste is unavoidable. We don’t have the time, effort, energy, or interest to spend all of our free time going zero waste. Keep in mind, every dirty item we recycle has the potential of contaminating large quantities of recyclable material. Ensuring our recyclables are in their “cleanest” form gives every item the best chance of not ending up in a landfill.

  5. Simplify the process. Make it easy to sort and store recyclables until collection day. See my pic above 🙂 This sounds SO simple BUT I cannot emphasize enough how essential this simple step is. When you can’t just throw everything into a trash bag, I guarantee you will become more conscious about what you are “recycling” and if it is clean enough to throw in a bin without a bag. (bag-less recycling is a GOOD thing…Except NYC…yours HAS to go in a clear bag!) It will also force you to think about what can/can’t be recycled.

  6. FINALLY…Identify your local distribution sites.

    • Typically your local recycling pickup can handle basic mixed recycling (paper, cardboard, hard plastics, aluminum).

    • For me, I used to use Mom’s Grocery for things like soft plastics, Brita filters, batteries, etc… UNFORTUNATELY I just learned that Mom’s is dropping soft plastics because there is no longer a market for it! This article cannot emphasize enough my last post on how our recycling market is imploding on itself. #eliminate-soft-plastics

    • I have found multiple drop-off sites for my glass recycling in Arlington, VA. It looks like you can still recycle glass in New York City, although most places have eliminated it due to lack of value. Check your county’s recycling page to see where your local drop-off is.

“Eliminating the idea of waste”

I want to give a shout out to a firm that I came across recently. A friend, Danielle, told me about this zero waste e-commerce platform called Loop Stores. While it is still an up and coming idea, it is badass! What I learned is that Loop Store is a brand under the parent company, Terracycle. Their MOTO is “Eliminating the idea of waste” and I f%$*ing love it. It seems like much of their platform is B2B solutions to help companies reduce their waste, BUT they have this program… Zero Waste Box program. How can you take recycling one step further??? You buy the All-In-One box and EVERYTHING you can’t figure out how to recycle (soft plastics, lighters, razors, K-cups, chip bags, etc…) you put in the box and ship it to them. Given the price, I GUARANTEE you will become more conscious about the waste you produce.

In summary, know there are endless articles out there on recycling, the plastic pandemic, etc… My intent is not to call bullshit on the world and say we are screwed (there are plenty of other people to do that). My goal is to shine one hell of a spotlight on the bullshit we have been fed, and try to inform so that we can all rise above it. At the very least, I hope that these articles leave you with the following takeaways:

  1. That you shift your mentality from “lets hope this gets recycled” to “does this item have the best chance of BEING recycled”. Remember, you CANNOT rely solely on an item’s recycling logo BUT it does help you understand if a product has the capability of being recycled. As I highlighted above, you will see PLENTY of soft plastic items with a recycling logo YET there is nowhere to recycle it…explain that one!

  2. Take a few minutes to learn what material your local system is able to handle and if there are nearby “specialty drop-off locations” for items like soft plastics, batteries, corks, etc…

  3. Clean your recyclable materials. If it is being recycled dirty, there is a high probability chance it is going to eventually be routed to the dump. Either take the step to wash it OR save the gas/energy and send it directly to the trash. Pro-tip… If it is greasy/oily/or caked with food, simply throw it in the dishwasher before recycling.

  4. Create a system!!! This can be a series of trash cans, stackable storage bins (YES…They are plastic BUT a great system that I use), etc… Head to the Container Store or get creative through Amazon. Decorate it and make it something you’re not embarrassed to have in your kitchen!

  5. Start to develop a conscious thought process when throwing something out. When I am holding a piece of waste, I think through the following questions:

    • Is it compostable?

    • If no, can it be recycled through my county’s recycling program? (I.e. aluminum, paper, cardboard, hard plastic)

    • If no, is there a specialty drop-off location for it? (I.e. batteries, corks, cables, fabric, etc…)

    • If no, is it something Terracycle can accept?

    • If no, THEN I put it in the trash can (meats/non-compostables, oily products, dirty diapers, etc…)

Have any questions??? Disagree with anything I wrote??? Please please please comment or reach out! I love digging into this stuff and always appreciate an opposing view 🙂


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