The Basics of Recycling

It’s no secret that one of the easiest things you can do to help the environment is to recycle. My only question is, why don’t more people actually do it? Recycling is helpful on multiple levels. It helps the environment by cutting down on waste overflowing in the landfills, and it can also actually save you money.

Recycling is not hard at all. All it takes is a little imagination and the willingness to look beyond what is already presented to you. Some people are fortunate enough to have recycling programs available to them, which will accept larger items such as plastic and glass bottles, cardboard, and newspapers (check your local recycling program for specifics). But recycling isn’t all about what you can put in the recycling bins on the curb and it can stretch far beyond just plastic bottles. Here are a few tips and ideas I’ve put together to help you help our environment.

  • Use scrapped printer paper instead of notepads. Technology can be iffy, and printers can go on the fritz. If your printer runs out of ink halfway through spitting out your term paper—thus marking it up with those fuzzy gray lines we all know and love—don’t throw the paper away! It may not be pretty enough to turn in, but unless there’s a giant ink stain in the middle, it can be perfect to cut up and use for note paper. And then you won’t have to stock up on Post-Its when you need to make a list.
  • Recycle print cartridges. Occasionally, when you purchase a printer cartridge, the box includes a mail-back envelope. Use this to return your old cartridge to the manufacturer, and they will recycle it for you. If your cartridge doesn’t come with this handy envelope, check at your local office supply retailer—they may have a place for you to turn in your used cartridge.
  • Pack food smart. If you pack your lunch frequently, or if you just like storing food in plastic bags around your house, then this tip is for you. When you’re done with that ziplock baggie, don’t throw it away. You can use it more than once throughout the week, either by packing the same foods within it or by rinsing it out at night. For example, each weekend I make a week’s worth of air-popped popcorn and have used the same gallon-sized bag as storage for months.
  • Save your plastic.Some people prefer the plastic grocery store check-out bags, or either can’t afford or don’t want to purchase the “green” shopping bags that have become so stylish. If you still get the plastic bags at the check-out, save them! Store them somewhere safe. They can be helpful with cleaning tasks around the house, be used as small garbage bags, or you can use them to keep fragile items safe when you move. Many grocery stores also have bins where you can return the plastic bags for recycling.

These are just some starter tips. With a little imagination, virtually anything can be recycled or reused. What can you do with that old coffee can instead of throwing it away? Or all those plastic water bottles? Stacks of newspapers? Broken drinking glasses? The possibilities are endless if you put a little thought and creativity into it! You’ll be saving yourself money and you’ll be saving the earth as well. So what are you waiting for? Get started!

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One Comment

  1. Rachel

    June 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    1. Avoid buying bottled water, instead invest in a sturdy water bottle and take your own bottled water from home. This will save you money and cut down on the unnecessary plastic waste that comes from bottled water (does anyone have statistics on this? All I know is water bottles are a big contributor to the waste we produce…)
    2. Reusing your zip lock bags is good, but when I can I use plastic containers, which aren’t meant to be thrown away, for storing my food.
    3. My family uses both the “green” reusable shopping bags and the plastic bags at the checkout. We save the plastic bags to use as garbage bags around the house, which saves money too because then we don’t have to buy plastic bags to put garbage in. We have always done this, and so the idea of buying plastic bags just to throw them away again seems so wasteful to me.
    4. Cut down on food packaging waste by making your own food (for example, muesli bars – so much plastic!) if you can.
    5. If you can, have a compost heap for food scraps instead of throwing those away. Or feed them to your animals, if you can (some animals shouldn’t eat some foods, etc.)

    The possibilities are indeed endless. Everyone should comment with what they do to reuse/recycle. Sometimes you don’t realise what you could be doing until someone points it out, so we should all share our ideas and help each other become better recyclers!

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