After you’ve cut back and reused till the cows came home, the next step is one of our favorites here at Earth911: recycling. The act of recycling has become second nature for a lot of us over the years and even if you do it every day, there is usually always a little room for improvement. Our first tip focuses mainly on not just participating in the act of recycling, but perfecting it. Then we take one step further be helping you create your own recycling facility in your backyard … you can even hire worms as workers!
Know the Rules
The U.S. EPA estimates that 75 percent of our waste is recyclable. This is great news, especially since the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) states that 87 percent of the U.S. population, or 268 million people, have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs. This means that many materials can be recycled and programs are, for the most part, accessible.
So what’s the holdup? For many people, it is knowing exactly what goes in the recycling bin and what to do with stuff that doesn’t. Here’s a checklist:
Check with your local government to get a list of what materials you can and cannot put in your curbside bin.
For everything that can’t be put in your curbside bin, check Earth911’s recycling database for drop-off locations near you. This includes items such as paint, batteries, CFLs and pesticides.
Use mail-back and store drop-off programs. This option is great for electronics and automotive waste. Most auto parts stores and mechanics will take used motor oil and old tires, especially if they do the work for you. As far as electronics are concerned, many products such as cell phones can be mailed to manufactures or traded in for money. Drop-off programs, such as Best Buy’s and the EPA’s eCycling Progam, are making electronic recycling more accessible for consumers across the nation.
Trade-in programs can often be an option when you are purchasing new items from that same company. Computers are a great example of this. In fact, by planning ahead while purchasing your computer, you can build the cost of proper disposal right in from the get-go, saving you money and time in the long run.
Everyone Can Compost
Only a few things are needed to make good worm compost: a bin, bedding, worms and worm food.
According to the U.S. EPA, each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. In addition to this, yard trimmings and food waste, combined, make up 24 percent of our nation’s municipal solid waste stream. If even half of this can be diverted and recycled through composting, our daily trash levels could start to decrease.
Compost adds nutrient content to the soil as well as keeping moisture in the soil so you water less. It also binds to soil contaminants to keep them from spreading.
Whether you are in an urban environment or composting with worms, this home recycling option comes in many forms and can be easier than you may think. From your kitchen, to your backyard, to a worm bin, composting can make a huge dent in your waste and produce a rich product you can use to help maintain your yard, give to friends or even sell at the local farmer’s market.
Last but not least, we’ve added the concept of changing the way you even think about products and their disposal. Most importantly, many of these decisions begin before you get the product home. Use the following tips to focus on how your stuff is packaged, and more importantly, how it’s made!
Pre-cycle When You Shop
Nearly everything you buy at the grocery store will come in some sort of container. The key to pre-cycling is finding products in containers that are easy to recycle or can be reused. The simple act of thinking more about packaging and buying accordingly can help to curb your waste output before you even purchase.
But the Label Said Eco! — Ways to Not Get Tricked While Going Green
Any time a trend or lifestyle gets popular, a lot of people try to get on the bandwagon. The good news is a lot of great ideas and products get created. The bad news, a lot of bad ones are too! This wouldn’t be a big deal if consumers could easily tell the difference. Unfortunately lots of marketing can go into making sure you can’t.
According to the Natural Products Association, which represents more than 10,000 natural product companies and retailers, Americans spent $7.5 billion in 2006 on personal care products that claimed to be all-natural but often were not.
Thankfully there are some major regulations in place for some of the products we rely on. Organic, for example, is a statement that is regulated by state and federal agencies.
According to Cathy Greene with the Economic Research Service/USDA , “Private organizations, mostly nonprofits, began developing certification standards in the early 1970’s as a way to support organic farming and thwart fraud.” For these reasons, most people feel confident in purchasing products labeled organic.
Published in the January/February 2010 Newsletter