Help Our Planet: 10 Tips to Improve Your Recycling

Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Eco-Friendly, Environment with 0 Comments
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By Team Treehugger with reporting by Manon Verchot | Treehugger

Recycling got its start almost four decades ago, when a U.S. paper company wanted a symbol to communicate its products’ recycled content to customers. The design competition they held was won by Gary Anderson, a young graphic designer from the University of Southern California. His entry, based on the Mobius strip (a shape with only one side and no end) is now universally recognized as the symbol for recycling.

To many people, recycling conjures up the blue plastic bins and bottle drives. Part of the problem is that major companies like big bottlers of beer and soft drinks use recycling to shake off the responsibility of dealing with their manufactured packaging. But recycling is a design principle, a law of nature, a source of creativity, and a source of prosperity. For anyone looking to steer clear of corporate sponsored recycling and hoping to make recycling a more integral part of their lives, this guide is an overview of the basic legwork as well as some of the finer and more advanced concepts that have emerged in recent years.


To wit: “Recycling a ton of ‘waste’ has twice the economic impact of burying it in the ground. In addition, recycling one additional ton of waste will pay $101 more in salaries and wages, produce $275 more in goods and services, and generate $135 more in sales than disposing of it in a landfill.” – From Recycling: Good for the Economy, Good for the Environment.

Rethinking Recycling from Margaret Badore on Vimeo.

Read on to learn more about how recycling is green, and how you can make your recycling greener.

Top Recycling Tips

1. First things first, a little R & R & R

The aphorism is so tired it almost might seem like “reduce, reuse, recycle” should go without saying. Most of us have only really heard the last third of the phrase, and they’re ranked in order of importance, but there are several steps we should consider before recycling. Reducing the amount that we consume, and shifting our consumption to well-designed products and services, is the first step. Finding constructive uses for “waste” materials is next. If it’s broken, fix it don’t replace it! If you can, return it to the producer (especially electronics). Or better yet – don’t by any packaged goods! Tossing it in the blue bin should be last. (The garbage can is not on the list, for good reason.) Through a balance of these three principals you can easily see your landfill-destined waste dwindle fast. A good example of recycling is setting your empty water bottles in the bin on the curb. But by using a water filter and reusable container you can reduce or completely eliminate your need for disposable plastic bottles.

2. Know what you can and can’t recycle

Read up on the recycling rules for your area and make sure you don’t send anything in that can’t be processed. Each city has its own specifics, so try to follow those guidelines as best you can. But it can be more complicated than that. There’s real recycling, and there’s green-washed recycling and knowing the difference can help you avoid encouraging companies from ‘fake feel-good’ recycling. For example, Illy, the coffee company, began a capsule recycling program for its disposable coffee pods. The reality is that the ‘recycling program’ ships the capsules to another part of the country (hello carbon emissions!) and then downcycles the capsules to the lowest possible level. Their advertisements might make customers feel better about dumping capsules, but we know the truth behind the scheme, and it’s not recycling at its best.

3. Buy recycled

The essence of recycling is the cyclical movement of materials through the system, eliminating waste and the need to extract more virgin materials. Supporting recycling means feeding this loop by not only recycling, but also supporting recycled products. We can now find high recycled content in everything from printer paper to office chairs. But make sure you know the difference between recyclable and recycled.Tetra Pak says the use recycled materials in their packaging, but only 18 percent of Tetra Paks get recycled – so the recycling looped is not closed.

4. Encourage an artist

If you know someone interested in making art from recycled materials, offer to provide supplies. Many school children need items like paper towel tubes for art projects. Older artists use everything from rubber bands to oven doors. If you know someone who teaches art classes, suggest that an emphasis be put on making art from trash. While you’re at it, remind them to use recycled paper and biodegradable, earth-friendly glues, paints, and pencils whenever possible. See below for inspiration and groups that connect artists and students with useful “trash.”Don’t forget, you can get your creativity on and re-purpose your recycled materials too!

5. Recycle your water

If you’re a homeowner, consider rearranging your plumbing so that rainwater or wastewater from your shower and tub is used to flush your toilet. If you have a garden, water it with leftover bathwater or dishwashing water (as long as you use a biodegradable soap). For more on water recycling see How to Go Green: Water.

6. Recycle your greenery

William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of the groundbreaking Cradle to Cradle, envision so-called “waste” divided into two categories: technical nutrients and biological nutrients. Biological nutrients are those that, at the end of their useful life, can safely and readily decompose and return to the soil. Composting is one of the simplest and most effective recycling methods. Both your garden cuttings and your green kitchen waste can go into an outdoor or indoor composter (with or without entertaining a population of worms). If you don’t have a garden yourself, find neighbors or a community garden that can make use of your soil. Composting food scraps will mean your regular kitchen wastebasket fills up more slowly and also won’t smell. Hotter, more active compost heaps can also consume tougher stuff like newspaper and paper napkins. After Christmas, many cities also have programs for turning your tree into mulch.

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