When we finish something, whether it’s a carton of eggs, leftover takeout, or even our skin care products, most of us make assumptions about which bin our refuse belongs in. Habitually, we either recycle it or toss it in the garbage bin. Seems pretty simple, right?
We’re sorry to burst your bubble, but most of us are contributing to excess waste disposal, despite our efforts to live an eco-conscious lifestyle. For example, although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, we only recycle around 30% of it.
However, there is good news. We’re here to help you understand how to recycle responsibly and effectively in order to contribute to a greener community!
Why is recycling important?
Recycling is becoming more of a global concern now that 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put this in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.
It may be hard to believe that our recycling efforts can make a real difference, but did you know that “a single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours. It also creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than would be created when making a new bottle”?
Nine out of 10 people say they would recycle if it were “easier.” However, recycling can be easy and effective by making small adjustments in your life, just keep reading to learn out how!
There are many common misconceptions about recycling; one of them is that it’s simple. Recycling is not just throwing any and all plastic and glass items into a bin and sending it away.
While some recycling centers can handle many different types of plastics and glass, even without pre-sorting, very few can handle everything. What’s more is that every city has its own rules about what they can take, meaning depending on where you live, you have to recycle differently. With that said, the first step to responsible recycling is checking what your collection service accepts.
Now, you may be thinking, “What’s the harm in just recycling something, even if I don’t know if it’s recyclable?” Well actually, Self Magazine says, “if something that is not accepted ends up at the facility, it can clog up the entire system. This human error is causing big problems in the recycling industry.”
When in doubt, if something can be recycled or not throw it in the garbage so it doesn’t ruin the entire batch of recyclables with it.
Recycling Beauty Products
Sometimes it’s tricky to know what can and can’t be recycled, especially with products that don’t belong in the kitchen. But just like your jam jars, recycling plants will accept your glass-bottled beauty products as well. However, make sure you give them a good rinse first and leave the lid on when you toss it.
Plastic skincare tubes and shampoo bottles are some of the most common beauty containers we have lying around the house, so make sure you’re recycling them properly: leave the labels on, screw the lids back on, and remember to give the tubes a good clean!
Another general rule of thumb is to remove the pumps from any bottle before recycling because they often have metal springs inside that you can’t see, and those can’t be recycled.
We've all thrown a shampoo bottle or two in the garbage bin out of laziness, and we've all ditched a lipstick tube, unsure as to whether they are recyclable at all. However, if we all made small adjustments to pull our weight a little more, we could really make a difference.
Not only would less plastic end up in our landfills and oceans, but we'd also reduce our global energy consumption!
Here is a general list of tips to consider when recycling:
- Pouches and squeezable tubes usually can’t be recycled.
- Remove the pumps from any bottle before recycling because they often have metal springs inside that you can’t see.
- Wash out a container before recycling it, make sure it doesn’t contain any product residue.
- Don’t use plastic grocery bags, they dissolve into potentially harmful microplastics and, in the case of ingestion or entanglement can hurt and kill animals
- Most dry shampoo and hairspray cans are made of steel and aluminum, which are both recyclable.
- Often, small items like lipstick tubes or eyeshadows can’t be recycled. However, some beauty brands take back the container for a discount on your next purchase!
- With respect to glass, clear, brown, and green are preferred for recycling programs.
- Reduce the single-use items in your kitchen, like paper plates, plastic cups, and straws. Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.
- Buy fruit that isn't perfect. A lot of good fruits and vegetables are thrown out because their size, shape, or color are a bit off.
- Keep several reusable grocery bags and cloth produce bags in your car so they will never be forgotten (and reuse any little plastic produce bags you need).
- Use durable glass, metal, or porcelain containers for storing leftovers.
- Compost! If you have a garden, get a compost bin--some cities give them away for free.
- Love your leftovers to avoid wasting food.
- Support eco-conscious brands!