Now I’m not one to pull the ‘Peeping Tom’ on someone’s trash can and pass judgment on their recycling mistakes and attempt to predict what kind of person they may or may not be based on the fact whether they know how to separate their recyclables from their organics from their landfill (*gasp*, you actually make landfill?). But then again, I did once work as a waste auditor during my university years, so yes, maybe I am that kind of person after all.
Trash peeping Tom or not, I’d err on the side of caution when it comes to letting people peer inside the deep depths of your garbage. It really does say a lot about you. Like whether you eat far too many twinkies, call on the late night pizza boy a little too often that it’s starting to look suspicious that there’s more to this arrangement than just pizza, or if you go through a few too many disposable razors that one may suspect you’re attempting to hide your werewolf bloodline. So take note - The contents of your trash can and recycling bin should most certainly be something you are concerned about others bearing witness too.
Here’s a fun fact for today.
“In 2012, Americans recycled and composted 87 million tons of materials. The resulting CO2 emission reduction is equivalent to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road.“
So yeah, let’s just say, recycling is kind of a big deal. On the flip side, a HUGE portion of what we trash could potentially be recycled or composted. Currently, less than 35% of households and less than 10% of businesses in the U.S. recycle (Source).
Sounds like some of us still believe in the fairytales of yesteryear. You know the one … where we throw our trash in the bin and then it’s collected by the Carebears and transported to magical ‘away‘ land at the end of the rainbow where the trash pixies cheerily sprinkle oodles of pixie dust on it and banish it to never again land.
Don’t mean to pull the bag off your head, but actually, what goes into your trash can is what gets processed to landfill and my golly goodness, wouldn’t it be a shame if there were organics that could have been composted and recyclables that could have, well, recycled. Think of it this way, if you put that item your holding into the trash can, would you still put it in the trash if God, your grandmother, Al Gore or Captain Planet were watching?
These poor pixies, little do they know that their pixie dust is rather useless in combating the truckload of potentially hazardous chemicals that leech back into the soil and our water ways, emit balloons full (yes, I’m making that a new measuring term now) of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and basically, are wasted when they could be put to use sprinkling it over the likes of oh, let’s say, Monsanto.
So yes, actually, we do need to be conscious and educated about what can and cannot be recycled because some people really HAVE NO IDEA.
Don’t worry though folks. It’s not as scary as the garbage goblins would have you believe. So let me clear up a few common recycling mistakes that will help you live another day with a slightly clearer conscious.
1. Is that glass really recyclable?
Believe it or not, not all glass is created equal just like all boy bands are not. Some have different melting points and cannot be thrown in with the standard glass bottles to be recycled (just like those boy bands who have different melting points, no?). Light bulbs, mirrors, glass windows, along with a host of other materials like ceramics and china; they cannot be co-mingled with glass bottles or recycling.
2. Keep the Food Contamination Away
It’s basically a no-go zone here. If you have that 1 week old pizza box sitting there waiting for collection day, be sure to check it it’s contaminated by extra slices of salami and greasy cheese. Tear off the unsoiled parts and sure, recycle those but keep the rest for your compost bin. Likewise, with the tacky plastic take away containers or other bottle/cartons. If they can be, wash them and then recycle them.
3. That Lid Does Not Belong
I’m that girl at the party who will do a sweep of the kitchen table once in a while to collect the bottle caps and trash them to make sure some drunken drool doesn’t start playing basketball hoops with the recycling bin. Milk carton caps and other bottle caps should stay out of the recycling bins. Oh, and those plastic circular things that keep a bottle sealed, TRASH THEM. Keep them out of Mother Nature’s hair because they are toxic for wildlife and are often found in the dead carcasses of birds and sea creatures.
4. Plastic bags are a big NO-NO
Not only are plastic bags basically the bane of our existence, they are not worthy of the recycling bin. Return them to your local grocery store (if they accept them), or just don’t use them FULLSTOP. Yes, this includes plastic wrappers and packaging. I once had a housemate who would throw the cracker boxes in the recycling bin but with plastic and cracker crumbs still inside *queue painful squinting eye*. Let’s just say that arrangement didn’t last long.
5. Check with Your Local Council
This really should be where we all start our research because every council, county, village and kingdom has their own recycling program. Some reuse whole bottles and even offer monetary compensation for returns, others may only accept paper that’s kept separate from other recycled materials and cringe at dumps of shredded paper. So I can offer up some advice, but it does depend on your local recycling center for the most part.
Some further tips to help you REDUCE that trash in the first place.
AVOID buying groceries in individual plastic bags. Do you really need a single bag for that ONE orange?
AVOID items that are packaged and then packaged within a package and then packaged within a package (then drop said product’s PR team a kind note informing them that they need to reconsider their triple packaging. Imagine the COST SAVINGS!)
OPT FOR reusable bags where ever possible. I’m talking cloth and canvas bags from everything to shopping (both food and other goods), for personal use, gift giving, etc.
OPT OUT of junk mail at every possible opportunity. Does anyone actually read catalogues these days when you there’s the internet?
DON’T print things out if you can simply email it and save it on your cell phone. There are so many apps now that can also scan documents and save receipts straight from the cashier. Times are changing grandpa.
COMPOST food scraps. Oscar the grouch does not need your 7 day old Chinese take away.
USE reusable, BPA-free storage containers to transport your food and keep in the fridge. Not those silly take out, one-hit-blunders.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to common recycling mistakes you see other people make? (Don’t worry, we’re a forgiving crowd here at the end of the day)
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