Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recycling: Getting Started

We have made it to Georgia! The trip has been a breeze so far! We're staying with our good friends and old neighbors for the night. My neighbor Molly is the person that inspired me to start recycling. So, in honor of our visit and my recycling idol Molly, I'm posting this "from the road" today.

I confess, I just started recycling a couple of months ago. Before that, I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be doing and to be honest, I didn't want to bother. There was a different pick up day for recycling where we lived before. It's a big enough hassle to remember to drag my trash to the curb once a week, but twice? Forget it. It all seemed a little too inconvenient, for lack of a better word. Then, quickly after we moved here, I started noticing the little blue bags opposite the trash cans at the end of my neighbor's driveways on trash day. And I couldn't miss the blue tubs left by our land lady in the garage.

I decided to do some investigating. It turns out that my new town allows co-mingled collections. That means that all types of recyclables can be grouped together and put out. No need to sort glass from plastic, from paper, from metals. That's pretty simple. And here trash and recycling day are the same. However, now that I've got the hang of it, I'd take my recycling out on a different day if I needed to.

If you're like me, you might wonder, "How do they sort all of this stuff out?" I had visions of the poor little man down at the city dump going through each little blue bag. Glass in this pile...plastic over here... Talk about awful jobs. Of course, in this day and age, a job is a job. I know, I have quite an imagination. Then I found this awesome video on It shows just how single stream recycling works and how the materials are all separated out and recycled accordingly. I'm serious, it was super cool to watch. My four year old was fascinated. We had to watch a few times. Please, check it out! Just click here.

If you're already recycling or ready to get started, here are a couple of tips:

1. Wash and squash!
Rinse out recyclable containers. Don't go crazy here. Don't run them through your dishwasher (that wastes water and energy) rather, just rinse them out. Squash cardboard boxes and crush cans and plastic containers if possible. You can fit more recyclables in your containers this way.

2. Remove labels and lids.
Especially the lids from plastic jugs and bottles. Plastic caps are often made from a different polymer type, and therefore have a different a melting point when compared to the plastic used for the bottle itself. Too many lids will contaminate the load, so remove and throw away plastic caps where possible.

3.Paper tip: no paper clips
Also remove staples and plastic windows on envelopes from paper. Paper fibers cannot be recycled if they are contaminated with food. Throw out greasy wrappers or better yet, put them in your compost pile. Tear out contaminated portions like a greasy pizza box lid and recycle the clean remainder.

Here are a couple of our milk jugs, rinsed with the cap removed.

I've made it convenient to dispose of our recyclables. I put the covered recycling bin just outside of the sliding kitchen door. After I eat a container of yogurt or empty a cereal box, it goes out the door and into the bin. Easy!

Some communities specify the type of plastic that they will take. Like I said, I'm new to this, so I did a little research to find out what those numbers printed inside of triangles on the bottom of my plastics represented. Here's what I found:

1 Polyethylene terephthalate - Fizzy drink bottles and oven-ready meal trays.

2 High-density polyethylene - Bottles for milk and washing-up liquids.

3 Polyvinyl chloride - Food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo

4 Low density polyethylene - Carrier bags and bin liners.

5 Polypropylene - Margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.

6 Polystyrene - Yoghurt pots, foam meat or fish trays, hamburger boxes and egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys.

7 Other
Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories. An example is melamine, which is often used in plastic plates and cups.

To find out what types of plastic recyclables are accepted in your community, you can do what I did, Google "recycling in _________". Insert the name of your town or city in the blank. Or you can directly contact your local waste management facility.

Here are some reasons to recycle from

1. Recycling Saves Energy
When new products are manufactured from the raw material obtained from recycled products, it saves a lot of energy which is consumed for the production. When new products are manufactured from ‘virgin materials’, the amount of energy consumed is much higher. Besides, the energy required to acquire and transport the ‘virgin’ raw materials from their origins or natural sources is also saved. Add to that the energy which is required to clean and protect the environment from the pollutant waste products, especially those which are non-biodegradable (plastic) and fill up the landfill areas.

2. Recycling Saves Environmental Conditions and Reduces Pollution
Recycling helps in preventing global climate change to a great extent. By minimizing the energy spent on industrial production, recycling also helps in reducing greenhouse gas emission. Some of the major fossil fuels used in most industries include coal, diesel, gasoline etc. All these emit harmful gases such as methane, sulfur dioxide, carbon-dioxide to the environment. The processing of fresh raw material also creates toxic materials which pollute the environment. By reducing the energy used, recycling also minimizes the amount of fuel usage which in turn reduces the amount of harmful pollutants in the environment.

3.Recycling Saves Natural Resources
We know that recycling involves the processing and usage of the core elements of an old product for the production of new products. This helps in saving our natural resources to a great extent. For example, once an old newspaper is recycled we do not need to use the resource of another tree to produce new paper products. This way, proper recycling can help us preserve our natural resources for our future generations and maintain the balance of the nature.

4.Economic Benefits
Similar to energy and natural resource, recycling also helps in saving a lot of expense, demanded for the production of new products from ‘virgin’ materials. These expenses include the entire production cycle starting from acquiring the raw materials, transferring them from their origin to production places, processing and manufacturing costs.

5.Recycling process creates employment opportunities for a lot of people, involved in the various stages of the process. This in turn contributes to the economic development of the state or country.

6. Recycling Saves Space for Waste Disposal
Most of the landfill sites are filled up with a lot of waste products that could have been recycled effectively. Some of these waste materials belong to non-biodegradable category which takes a long time to decompose. Recycling enables proper usage of these waste products and saves space for landfills. The pace with which landfills are getting filled up, soon we might run short of landfills unless we start following recycling at our own home and spread the word to others.

Not convinced yet? Follow this link to more surprising recycling facts like this one:

The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

That one hits home...especially after paying huge gas bills all winter!

Alrighty, end of my infomercial for recycling. I promise I'm not "crazy recycling lady". Although, if you are, more power to you! Sometimes I still forget and everything goes into our waste basket. Just thought I'd share some of my findings. At least I feel that the little bit that we're doing in our home is helping. And if everyone did just a little bit...
Anyway, I hope all of you can find a way to do a little bit too.

1 comment:

very_inky_fingers said...

I am worse than a four year old for sure! I watched the video over and over and over! Great info.

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