Today, most municipalities have recycling programs, making it easy to practice recycling. Many goods are now packaged in recyclable materials, and some goods themselves can even be recycled. If given the choice, you should try to buy things that can be recycled over those that can’t.
The key with recycling is to know what can be recycled in your area, since it varies from municipality to municipality. Recyclable plastics typically have a number imprinted on them from 1 to 7. The lower the number, the more likely it is to be accepted for recycling.
Metal objects such as aluminum, tin and steel cans are almost universally accepted for recycling. Most paper products can be recycled. Most glass can also be recycled, with the exception of windows, ceramics, light bulbs and ovenware.
Other recyclable items that are often accepted include yard waste, motor oil, car air conditioner coolant, car tires, batteries (including car batteries), cell phones, printers’ ink cartridges, computers, and other electrical appliances. Now it is even possible to recycle mattresses and other furniture in some areas. You may even be able to recycle your eye glasses.
Recycling benefits the environment in the following ways:
- conserves landfill space
- reduces energy requirements for production by about 95% for aluminum, by up to 75% for paper, by up to two thirds for certain plastics and by up to a third for glass
- reduces resource consumption, such as the clearing of trees for paper goods, mining of metals, and the use of petroleum for plastic
- typically reduces pollution from production, ie. producing aluminum from recycled materials reduces air pollution by 95%
- can reduce water requirements, ie. making paper from recycled materials uses less than half the water than the process of making it from virgin materials
It is important to know all of the particulars of your municipality’s recycling programs, including what items can be recycled, when and where items can be recycled, and how to prepare items for recycling (ie. washing, crushing, sorting, etc.). As a general rule, it is a good idea to rinse food off of recyclable materials and remove caps and lids. Don’t bother removing labels as they will get removed anyway.
By choosing recyclable goods over non-recyclable goods, and practicing recycling, you can reduce the environmental impact of your consumption.
For more green living tips, return to Go Green Zine.