Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Okay, okay, how can I help?

So, I'm not sure if you've been paying attention but if you have, you've heard (repeatedly), that the recycling markets and industry are in trouble. A number of factors have come into play to create the "perfect" storm. Despite the name there is little positive about it. We are all happy to receive some rain but when the waters keep rising many are found praying for the Sun and a nice long dry spell.

We know about the challenges so how do we help? As we've posted about previously there are a few factors that are outside of our hands as individuals or businesses. There are also a number of things that you can do to really make a positive impact in your recycling efforts. The single largest way to positively effect your recycling efforts is to follow bin & program instructions and keep out contaminants, contacting the program directors when needed to clarify those confusing recycling messages.

Let's say you are an avid recycler and you've done all that... you know exactly what should and should not go into your bins and you are the picture of recycling success (yay, you)... now what? What else can you do to help push recycling in the right direction? Well, thanks for asking.

1. Reduce single use (specifically with items that cannot be recycled).

Hello, my name is Tiffany and I am a paper towel addict. I've tried to stop, I've looked at alternatives, I've tried alternatives, and I have even gone as far as to leave the holder empty on purpose just to put a (temporary) end to my addiction. I don't know where my need to endlessly pull the paper towels off the roll comes from but it sure is handy and we have more then enough messes to keep the roll dwindling. Paper Towels are not recyclable ( I certainly would not want to be on a sorting line and touching whatever new, sticky mess my children have found to cover themselves in). Don't worry,  I feel the guilt. So, in an effort to start simple I've made some other changes ones that have really stuck.

Ziplock bags used to be another issue for me. They are so easy to use and they don't leave you hanging without a lid like most of the regular food storage containers do. They keep snacks fresh and if someone forgets to bring it home... no big deal (I would likely throw them anyway). We've busted this habit. We found reusable snack bags that work as well as ziplock but we have used them endlessly. They seal, they're easy to clean and they even have some cute prints. This choice has kept endless Ziplock bags out of the landfill from our family. (SCORE!)

K-Cups - hot topic issue amongst environmentally minded. So handy, less water waste but the amount of plastic generated from these small plastic cups is unreal (especially in areas that aren't able to recycle the K-cup plastics). A well kept secret is a brewing basket. You can purchase your own coffee and use a brewing basket to quickly and easily make a single serving from your machine. No waste of the coffee, the water or the plastic cup.

Sometimes we are willing to give a little for convenience and sometimes our environment pays the price. I promise, I will continue to look for paper towel alternatives and make a change with that too!

2. Buy with recycling/end of life in mind. Cat litter comes in two options the paper containers and the large plastic tubs. I know that my recycling collection center takes both, so it really makes no difference which one I select (other than convenience to me) . Some collections centers will not take the large plastic kitty litter tubs so I would keep that in mind when buying. Another instance of this is located at the dollar section in some very popular stores. You can purchase cheap, cute (bpa free) cups and drink, snack and sandwich containers. It seems like a great plan, but because they are so cheap they are also cheaply made and just don't hold up to the abuse inflicted by my children. We have found that after only a few uses they are in need to discard. Some containers fit into the standard recycling program but others are a mixture of plastics or aren't accepted. It's important to weigh the lifespan of the products and know where they will end up when we are finished with them.

3. Find a landfill alternative. After you have recycled all that is allowed curbside, and you've looked locally and dropped off grocery bags, batteries, and light bulbs at the local collection sites you've still found you have more garbage in your bin then you'd like ... what can you do?

     What about compost - on average a huge percentage of our garbage is food waste. Leftovers,            fruit and vegetable cuttings and scraps, coffee grinds, etc. These items do not need to go to the            landfill and can instead be composted to help fertilize your garden and grow bigger, happier                produce!

     Can it be reused? Sometimes when an item can no longer be used for it's original job it can find a      new one. Other times they item may not have use in your home but may be a welcomed (and              needed) addition to someone else's. Taking items that are no longer needed to a goodwill, yard            sale, or other like sale site helps to keep it out of the garbage, allows someone else to give it a
     second life and prevents them from going out and buying something new. The simple choice to
     reuse the item can be quite impactful.

4. Keep it simple. There are so many products created today and it is so tempting to see the newest widget and get sold on it; infomercials are puzzling and yet amazing things. I can be tempted by the seeming ease of the 15 product line, that will most certainly make my life easier. You could have a gamut of kitchen appliances all designed to help you eat healthy and quickly. Many times I've learned that I already have all the pots and pans I need and with the right techniques and a little thought my meals can be just as healthy, almost as quick, and much less wasteful. Sometimes a simple rag can also accomplish as much cleaning as the 3 different height and heat level mops. At times the next greatest product may be just that... great, other times it's just another thing to take up room in your closet and eventually find its way to the goodwill or worse... the landfill. The most difficult part is to learn to tell the difference, I think we're all still working on that.