#Recycling, Stage Two: Stepping It Up, for a Cleaner, Healthier Earth

recycle-logo

Did you know that in 1989 President George H.W. Bush declared April National Recycling Month? Makes good sense in the month we also celebrate Earth Day, doesn’t it?

The good news is, we’ve gotten so much better at recycling than we used to be back then.

  • In 2010, paper recycling had increased over 89% since 1990.
  • Over 87% of Americans now have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs.
  • Businesses with record-setting food diversion programs are recovering 50% to 100% of their food discards and reducing their overall solid waste by 33% to 85%.

The not-as-good news is that we still have a long way to go.

  • Over 75% of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.
  • Less than 1% of all plastics products are recycled in the U.S. Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic beverage bottles every hour!
  • We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year. If we composted that food, it would reduce the same amoutn of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.

Obviously, some of the things that need to be done to improve our recycling habits require community-wide or business-based solutions. But there are some things all of us can do as individuals, from day to day, that will help make a difference:

  • Remember that recycling is good, but reducing (waste) and reusing (things) before recycling them is even better.
  • For example: bringing canvas tote bags to the grocery store is better than recycling plastic bags. And minimizing the printing of documents is even better than recycling paper and cartridges.
  • Know and follow your local rules for recycling: don’t put things in recycling bins that CAN’T be recycled in your community (like  greasy pizza boxes); and don’t (ever) put things in the trash that CAN be recycled (like soda cans and plastic bottles).
  • For goodness sake, DON’T PUT FOOD TRASH IN RECYCLING CONTAINERS!  (We really ought to bring back stocks and pillories for this offense 😦 )

Other posts on this blog will help you find out how to recycle  electronics and carpeting as well as other “pesky” hard-to-recycle items.

The good news is, if you’re committed to not throwing toxic waste into our landfills, no matter where you live, there are ways to avoid it.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Spring, Happy Earth Day, and Happy National Recycling Month! Let’s make it better than ever!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coach travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Sources consulted for this piece:

http://earth911.com/recycling/

http://www.epa.gov/recycle/

http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-recycling

http://www.greenwaste.com/recycling-stats

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