These days it’s more important than ever to take care with your garbage and recycle as much as possible. But it’s not always as simple as separating your waste, so here are 10 handy tips. Just remember, the ‘Recycle, Reduce, Reuse’ mantra is at the core of being more environmentally-friendly.
The easiest way to reduce the amount of items that need to be recycled is to reduce your own use of them. Whenever possible, cut down on both items that can be recycled, and those that can’t. Bring your own food and coffee to work, avoid single-use items, individually wrapped goods, or junk mail. Also, say no to unnecessary plastics, such as shopping bags, and even bottled water.
There are many items that deserve a second chance at life. Check out charity shops for clothes and furniture, set up a composting bin at home, use old newspapers for packaging instead of bubble wrap, or cooking water as fertilizer in your garden. Also, whenever possible, aim to have an item repaired, rather than buying something new.
Select and Separate
Before you throw something into the designated bin, make sure that every part of it can be recycled accordingly. Throwing the wrong item in the mix can contaminate an otherwise perfectly recyclable load, which will have to go to landfill instead. Make sure to take lids off jars, remove any plastic bags from cereal boxes, and take plastic caps off bottles. Also, put aerosol cans, such as deodorants, separate from other metals, and leave the label on.
Not All Plastics Are the Same
A common misconception regarding plastics is that they’re all equally recyclable. Sadly, that’s not the case. You probably noticed that plastic containers have different symbols on them, which you can use to find out if they are accepted by recycling stations in your area. Non-recyclable plastics include bubble wrap, grocery store bags, candy wrappers, and even drinking straws — there’s a reason so many bars and restaurants are ditching them altogether.
Rinse Your Recyclables
Although you don’t have to give your bottles and jars a thorough wash before putting them into recycling, giving them a quick rinse will help. Recycling stations will accept some degree of contamination, but if your items are filthy, they risk being sent to landfill instead. Run the tap to get rid of the worst of the grime, and if the item is really dirty, give it a scrape. No need to worry about peeling the labels off, as the recycling process will get rid of them.
Ditch Garbage Bags
Plastic garbage bags seem like the reasonable choice for throwing out your recyclables, yet they cause more harm than you’d think. Although they can be recycled, they often wrap around and jam the equipment, and in some cases, they can even contaminate an entire batch of compostable waste. Ideally, take out your recyclable paper in a large cardboard box, and use designated bins for plastic, glass, and metal, without putting them in a garbage bag first.
Learn What to Leave Out
Rather than trying to recycle every scrap, sometimes it’s better to let them go to the landfill. Some items that can’t be recycled include styrofoam, take-away boxes and cups, paper towels, and even most milk and juice cartons. Broken glass should never be put into recycling, because it can injure the workers. Also, you probably shouldn’t recycle that pizza box either, especially if it’s stained with grease and sauces.
If you’re recycling small electronic devices, make sure to remove batteries first, and dispose of them accordingly. Regular batteries can be disposed of at designated collection centers, and most shops will have in-store bins where you can drop them off. As for the appliances themselves, talk to your local recycling company about the best way to dispose of them.
Think of the Wildlife
As good as your intentions are, there’s always the chance that what you take out to be recycled could end up in landfills, waterways, or the ocean, where they could pose a real threat to wildlife. One very simple thing you can do is cut anything that could present a choking hazard to birds and animals, such as the handles on a plastic bag, or the plastic pack rings on beer cans. It may not seem like much, but it could make a world of a difference.
If you really want to step up your recycling game, look into upcycling. Also known as creative reuse, this is a great way to give value to unwanted materials. Whether you use toilet paper rolls to make a unique piece of wall decor, or use cans for a vertical fence garden, it’s all up to you. Just remember to have fun, and let your creativity go wild.