For many years, I’ve lived in cities that have some type of recycling program. Sometimes I wish our city recycled more types of materials, but we are fortunate to be in an urban area where a truck picks up our recyclable waste every two weeks.
Others aren’t so fortunate. Some people have to drive their stuff to a central municipal site for recycling. Others don’t have recycling at all — such as a friend living in South America, in a city where, she notes, people drink tons of soda in plastic bottles … and then throw them all away.
The United States overall ranks somewhere in the middle of the world’s nations in terms of recycling. Part of the challenge is small towns and rural areas, where dispersed populations and faraway markets make recycling not so feasible.
You can’t necessarily change the behavior of others, but here are some ways to manage recycling challenges:
- Do what you can. Use your local services. Investigate other services that are within a reasonable distance. For instance, I can take some more challenging recyclable materials (for a fee) to a center in Boulder, where the city is deeply committed to recycling.
- Participate in corporate programs. For example, Aveda recycles plastic caps. Take them to a store or mail them for recycling. Nike runs a “Reuse a Shoe” program that recycles shoes into “Nike Grind” material that then is reused. The Web site says the program has recycled more than 25 million pairs of shoes in the past 20 years. Send them yours to raise that number!
- Recycle CFL bulbs. In the U.S., visit the EPA Web site for locations.
- Join a Terracycle brigade. Terracycle takes waste out of the garbage stream and turns it into products — ideally, with as little processing as possible. For instance, school lunchrooms can collect juice packs and send them to Terracycle. For every pack collected, Terracycle will donate 2 cents to charity or a school, and then Terracycle stitches the packs into tote bags and pencil cases to sell. Terracycle’s Web site says there are 9 million people collecting trash, who have saved 1.2 billion units of trash and contributed more than $660,000 to charity.
- Avoid buying things you cannot recycle. For instance, plastic clamshells just aren’t being recycled. Try to resist buying things in clamshells (or bringing home takeout in these containers). I know it’s hard when berries are fresh or salad greens look so inviting in winter. We are growing some of our own fruit (and we visit farmer’s markets) and looking into growing winter greens in a cold frame to avoid some of that temptation.
- Find alternatives. We have put a metal To-Go Ware container in our car to use to bring leftovers home from restaurants (at least if it’s in the car, we have more hope of remembering it and using it — we can run out to the parking lot) instead of bringing home styrofoam.
- Try to trim your waste in general. This is a good idea for all of us, especially reducing plastic, which has seriously damaging effects on our planet and on our own health. Check out the extensive archives at Fake Plastic Fish for good ideas.
- Find other ways to recycle. If you want to dive in to all aspects of recycling, or just find a place to turn in used batteries, Earth911 is the place to go. The site is packed with info.
Do you have recycling in your community? If not, what do you do about it?