Recycling to Reduce Trash
Our neighborhood in Oklahoma City has recently gone to the big recycle bins that can be picked up by the automated trucks. In addition to holding a LOT more than our “Little Blue Bins” we had before, they have the extra advantage of preventing trash destined for recycling from ending up being blown all over our neighborhood in the Oklahoma winds. We had one neighbor so upset over the blowing recyclables that she requested neighbors put their recyclables in bags. That quickly raised a flurry of comments since our recycle and trash company repeatedly reminds us that recyclables in plastic bags cannot be processed since the bags mess up the sorting equipment. (Paper bags would have been fine by the way, but not bagging recyclables is way better.)
The cutover to the new big green recycle bins was multi-stepped and involved a lot of postcards and posts on neighborhood Facebook pages detailing the steps of when to stop putting out the old bin, when to start using the new big green bin and to top it all off, a new pick up schedule! We are finally starting to get the hang of it.
With all this change, recycling has been the talk of the town for the last few months. Yay! During one of those conversations about all our recycling changes, a lady piped up that she was filling her big recycling bin as fast as she could. I responded, “that’s great! Is your amount of trash going down as you are transitioning trash to recycle?” She stopped and said, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.” So, in her rush of enthusiasm to fill up her new big green recycle bin, she had lost sight of the reason we recycle in the first place – to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill. Ultimately, the best solution is not to create the waste – recycled or trash – in the first place. With so much packaging these days, that’s challenging to do. Often, if I cannot find a low or no-packaging option, I will choose the most recyclable option. Check your local recycle hauler to see what can and can’t go in your single stream recycle bin. For harder to recycle items, check out www.Earth911.com or www.TerraCycle.com.
Some people have taken on the challenge to live a Zero Waste Lifestyle. That means little to no trash going to the landfill. With our convenience-oriented lifestyles laden with multiple layers of packaging sometimes, that sounds like a pipe dream. Yet, people are doing it. It’s hard work. Likely harder than many of us are willing to take on. Honestly, its more than I can take on, at least at this point in my life. However, knowing that other people can do it inspires me to be even more mindful of what I bring into our home that will end up in the trash bin or the recycle bin. I subscribe to the 80/20 rule and am ok if I can do my better habit 80% of the time.
Last time we had friends over for dinner, we ate on real plates and drank from real glasses, used cloth napkins and real silverware, yet a few of us were drinking bottled or canned beverages. It was a much lower waste event than if we’d chosen the convenience of disposables. Besides, we had fun cleaning up together!
While recycling is only part of the Reuse, Renew, Recycle mantra, it is an action we can take more easily with expanded recycling collection, especially at our curbside with single stream recycling pick up. Take advantage of this service and be sure to recycle whatever your local service takes. Typical single stream pick-up items include paper, aluminum, cardboard, cans, common plastic (number 1-6 usually) and sometimes glass.
Please also buy items that have recycled content. Without our purchases, recyclers cannot afford to process the recycled materials to make new products. Simple economics of supply and demand are still in force for recyclables and items made from recycled materials. You may be surprised how many items are available made from recycled materials, as well as how readily available they are.
Learn more about Recycling and what you can do on the Green Gab podcast The 3rd R – Recycling – from Refuse to Resource.
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