There’s a reason why the slogan is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” instead of just “Recycle”. The problem is that so many people jump straight to recycling and think that they’re doing everything they can for the environment. Which, any effort to reduce waste going into landfills is extremely important, but there are other things which can and should be done first. Recycling should be the very last thing you do when everything else is done.
The very first step in the effort to reduce waste is to reduce the amount you consume in the first place. The average person produces 4 pounds of waste every single day, the huge majority of this can very easily be minimized. There are numerous ways to live more green and reducing at the very beginning is the key. This can be done in a number of different ways – all of which are easy and beneficial to both you, your household, and the environment. Have you ever taken a moment to see how many things you use that go straight in the trash after? This includes the well-known plastic waste of plastic straws, silverware, grocery bags, and water bottles which are all really easy to avoid. They simply need to be replaced with reusable versions.
Something more difficult to tackle in the fight against plastic is packaging. Almost everything we buy comes in some sort of packaging, plastic is very frequent. Just a
handful examples include; most shampoo and face wash comes in plastic containers, replacement USB cords come in extensive plastic packaging, packages shipped from most companies are packed with materials detrimental to the environment, even something as simple as some fruit and vegetables is almost never able to be bought without plastic wrap, tags, and stickers. The amount of excess packaging especially in the United States is extreme. One easy way to combat this besides avoiding it is also to try to buy items that are only packaged in recycle-friendly materials, such as paper instead of plastic.
The next step is when waste is produced, why not try reusing it? The problem with recycling first is because time and resources go into recycling items. The idea of reusing before recycling can be applied to many different categories. Everything from old towels & clothes to cardboard boxes can be reused somehow. The purpose of reusing is to give an item two (or more!) lives of purpose instead of immediately being thrown into the trash or recycling after it is done being used the first time around.
Shirts can be made into bags, old towels can be cut up for use around the house, old sweaters and pillows can be made into pet beds & donated to pet shelters, glass bottles and jars can be saved for homemade sauces and juice, cardboard boxes and paper can be used for children’s arts and crafts or for campfire fuel… these are just a handful of ideas straight off the top of my head. The huge majority of items can be reused at least once, and this is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Recycling is the last step that should be followed. Putting items in the trash should be solely reserved for items which cannot be recycled or put into a compost bin (many areas even have local compost bins that can be donated to!).
Items that can be recycled:
- Paper is something that can pretty much always be recycled, including magazines. The sad fact is that only between half to ¾ of it is recycled.
- Cardboard is made of the same thing as paper, so like paper, it can almost always be recycled.
- Contrary to proper belief, metal can be recycled! Cans in particular also normally have paper labels, so once they’re cleaned out, they can be entirely recycled.
- Similar to cans, glass usually has labels that can also be recycled. (Though I think glass items are the easiest to reuse!)
- Some plastic
- Not all plastics can be recycled, but a lot can. Especially ones involved in food packaging.
Once all the other steps have been followed, recycling is not a bad thing in the slightest. I just think it is important to recognize all the steps that should be taken to reduce waste as it is easy to forget that there are other steps to take first in the fight against waste.
Categories: Green Living