Ever since I was a little kid, I was taught to recycle. My grandparents would compost in the backyard and take their cans to the local recycling center. At school, we were taught how to repurpose things and about the dangers not cutting up 6 pack rings to keep marine life and birds from getting caught in them. Even now, unless you have been living under a rock, from Starbucks to Social Media we are constantly being reminded to say no to single use plastics and encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle. So if you had asked me about a month ago if I knew how to recycle, my answer would have been a confident YES! You can imagine my shock and awe when I found out I was recycling wrong, like way wrong.
Last month I had the opportunity to tour Momentum Recycling, the leading glass recycle facility in Utah and it turns out that the blue bin in my driveway is actually not for all things plastic, cardboard or stamped with a recycling symbol. Turns out that in most cases, plastic grocery bags and glass don’t go in them, neither does shredded paper. What was even more shocking, was that those tiny little numbers in the middle of the recycling symbol actually mean something (go figure). I was seriously so bummed to find out that in many cases, when I recycle wrong chances are my efforts just ended up in a landfill because I had made as simple of a mistake as bagging my recyclables before throwing them in the bin. After the tour I was determined to learn how to recycle correctly and it turns out once you know the do’s and don’ts the rest is pretty easy. Since it is National Recycling Day, I thought I would share some tips and tricks I learned from my tour that will have you recycling like a pro in no time!
5 TIPS TO HELP YOU RECYCLE LIKE A PRO
- DO NOT BAG YOUR RECYCLABLES – this will send all your hard work to save the planet right to the dump. Instead just throw your recyclable items in the bin as is.
- PLASTIC SHOPPING/GROCERY BAGS DON’T GO IN THE BLUE BIN AT ALL – Instead, collect them all and throughout the week or month, throw them in your trunk and look for plastic bag recycling drop-offs next time you go grocery shopping. Better yet, take it to the next level by investing in some super cute reusable shopping bags you can carry with you and say no to plastic bags altogether. This was my New Year’s Resolution two years ago and it stuck, which isn’t always easy – sometimes I would totally forget my reusable bags in the car and end up juggling stuff out in my arms, so now I try to keep a compact one in my bag!
- FOOD WRAPPERS DON’T GET RECYCLED – neither do napkins or paper plates or food items. A good rule of thumb is that if it is wet and/or dirty, don’t recycle it. i.e. Starbucks to-go cups and pizza boxes.
- RINSE OUT PLASTIC CONTAINERS AND CANS – make sure to give your milk bottles, yogurt containers and other plastic containers and cans a thorough rinse before recycling them. If they are super gross and contaminated then you are better of tossing them.
- WHEN IN DOUBT CHECK YOUR LOCAL RECYCLING INFO – Recycling is not a one size fits all program. It is something that in many cases varies from City to City and/or County to County. In Utah, glass DOES NOT go in the blue recycling bin and neither does yard waste or food compost – they all have their own bins and pick-up schedules. Yes, it kind of sucks that by the end of the day you can often times have 4-5 different bins in the driveway (especially when you don’t have a lot of room) but recycling right does amazing things. Last year in Salt Lake City alone, our recycling program saved the equivalent of more than 4 million gallons of water and 7,500 mature trees.
The cool thing is that recycling makes a HUGE impact and just takes a little bit of extra awareness. One fact I learned on my tour at Momentum Recycling that blew me away was that currently in the U.S. only 25% of all plastics that could be recycled are actually recycled, if we recycled the remaining 75%…that would save us 1 BILLION GALLONS OF OIL and 44 MILLION CUBIC YARDS of landfill space per year! Another one was that one of the biggest non-recycling offenders in the nation is actually not our behaviors at home but at work. If your company or office doesn’t recycle yet, use Nation Recycling Day as a way to bring it up and encourage your workplace to go green! You might even earn some brownie points because studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, recycling will save not cost a company money.
Ultimately the biggest way to recycle correctly, is to eliminate as much garbage as you can by planning ahead by packing lunches in a bento box or using a refillable water bottle! Make sure to check the video coming to my YouTube Channel soon where I share 3 easy ways to say goodbye to single use plastics! In the meantime, see below for 25 stylish ways to say goodbye to single use plastics!