We all know landfills are detrimental to the health of an ecosystem. That’s why about 80% of Americans recycle, according to a Gallup Poll. But did you know there are a few other Rs that most people don’t think about? There are actually THREE other Rs that rank before we get to Recycle when we want to Keep It In The Cycle.
With Black Friday and gift giving right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about the four Rs. Try going through the Four Rs and asking yourself a few questions before you buy those gifts this Black Friday.
Coming in first is Rethink. This is where we ask those big questions-
“What habits of mine create the most waste?”
“How are our society and culture structuring our understanding of The Cycle?”
“Did I really have to buy these little yogurt cups instead of a family size jar?"
“Do I NEED this?”
"Where will all this plastic end up?"
Consider the effects your actions have on the environment.
This R is a BIG piece of the puzzle. This is where you put Rethink into ACTION! The less you buy, the less you throw away. But it doesn’t have to mean big sacrifices. According to the EPA, 35% of American Landfills are filled with packaging materials, so that’s a great place to start! To reduce the amount of packaging we are throwing away, we just have to start shopping a little differently.
Here are a few ways you can reduce your packaging waste:
Bring your own reusable shopping bag
Bring your own reusable produce bags
Shop in the bulk foods section instead of buying prepackaged, and bring your own reusable bulk bags or jars!
Buy fragile items locally so they require less travel protection
Make your own, instead of buying prepackaged (this goes for food and other items)
Buy in bulk sizes, and not individually wrapped portions.
Shop second hand
Okay, so you started with Rethink and decided to change a few of your shopping habits, and when you went shopping your Reduced your packaging materials, but you still really needed to buy that jar of tomato sauce, and now you have an empty glass container, so recycling, right? NO! (There is hardly ever a reason to recycle a glass jar, they have so many uses, and even if you don’t want them, someone does.)
Before you throw something away or recycle it, you should always ask if there is a way to use it again. Can you repurpose it in any way? If you can’t reuse it, can you give it to someone who will?
As the last of the Four Rs, recycling is the last option you should turn to. According to the EPA, 75% of our waste stream is actually recyclable and while 80% of Americans self-report recycling, still only 30% of our recyclables are actually recycled.
Most people know these things can be recycled:
CERTAIN TYPES OF PLASTIC
These are the things that are typically picked up by recycling services and the bins you see in public areas. But did you know if you don’t recycle the right way these items might end up in the landfill anyway? Make sure you throw recyclables in the proper bin and rinse them out first since dirty and food soiled items get tossed into the landfill.
Here are a few things that are ALSO recyclable:
ELECTRONICS: All the little parts inside that computer, iPod, or printer are resources that, at one point, came from the earth, and those resources can be used again, instead of just sitting in a landfill. Most electronics stores take electronics recycling.
BATTERIES: Batteries have some toxic ingredients in them, but they can be reused if properly recycled. If they end up in the landfill, eventually the batteries will begin to leak those chemicals and heavy metals into the ground and ultimately our water and soil. Many stores are now taking batteries for recycling.
METAL: Most metals can be recycled, whether its aluminum, steel, or gold there’s a place to recycle it. Large metal can be taken to a scrap yard and exchanged for money! When we took all the seats out of the bus, we got $40 for recycling them!
USED VEGETABLE OIL: Used vegetable oil is often recycled by people making BioDiesel. In fact, the Sustainable Skoolie is run on waste vegetable oil or WVO instead of fossil fuel-based diesel fuel!
FOOD SCRAPS: Composting is nature’s recycling! Composting is a way to turn organic material into nutrient-rich soil!
While Recycling is not the solution, it is a big part of how we keep our resources in the cycle. Remember that Rethink is the first R we need to think about. The biggest step we can take is to change our habits, to think reusable instead of disposable. We are all downstream when it comes to waste.
Want to learn more ways to keep our resources in the cycle?
AMERICA RECYCLES DAY
THE STORY OF STUFF