Being a responsible recycler is not all in recycling everything you can or believe you can, but recycling things correctly! Oftentimes many items are mistaken for being recyclable when in reality, they are trash; plastic items like plastic forks and straws commonly fall into this category. Recycling in a responsible manner also covers cleaning your items before disposing of them. These along with proper sorting of recycling, unless you are in a single sort recycling district, can make a huge difference for the product that you intended to recycle to actually get there. More often, than we would like our recycled products deemed as too contaminated to be recycled and end in the landfill, with a few easy steps on our part we can ensure that intended recycling is actually recycled.
Cleaning your products is a good way to make sure that there is not mold growing in your milk jug that has been sitting in your bin for more than a week now. This makes it safe for the facility to take in and not endanger their workers. Cleaning your products saves the recycling facilities time and a headache of more cleaning, but it also ensures that your items will be properly recycling instead of thrown out for too high of a level of contamination. This happens more often than you want to believe.
Once while doing a class project on bettering recycling behavior at the local student union, Union South, my class learned from our professor after he reached out to the local facilities that recyclable products are often thrown away because of improper disposal. When recyclables are in black bags, instead of clear or the familiar “recyclable blue” bags, they are tossed in with regular garbage. Single sort recycling facilities throw away these bags for possible health hazards to workers not knowing what is inside of them. This could range from food waste, to hazardous fungi, and dangerous items. For this reason it is important to make sure to use these certain types of bags, otherwise the recycling is combined with other waste.
Recycling is important but if we as consumers want to be accountable humans, we must also take some of these responsibilities. These responsibilities can range from: using the correct type of bags at home, to carrying your empty beverage to a recycling can instead of the trash that you just passed (I know, the extra 20 steps is difficult). Doing simple things like this and living a more sustainable being can greatly lessen our impact on nature and need for huge landfills. Something I do that is an easy way to be sustainable is carrying around a refillable water bottle to drink with me, this as well as a portable coffee cup instead of always getting a disposable one is one of the best ways to begin making an impact. Here is another post about commonly mistaken items so that you can become more literate in your recyclable materials.
I bet one thing that you did not realize though is that recycling can also apply to the earth, more commonly called composting. Composting is technically recycling nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen to reintroduce them to the earth. This helps our soil systems instead of just leeching these elements out of the ground and not returning them in a useful form. Composting allows for all of the nutrients that were in the soil that grew into the plants we know and eat to complete their lifecycle of becoming the soil and beginning the loop over again.
These are just a few of the many ways that recycling can be improved in daily life for many of us. However, many other methods to improve recycling can help make a difference in a broader sense. Urging your government to adopt more sustainable behavior and investing in green industries all make a difference. Following these tips on recycling and sustainability gives us the opportunity to improve the space around us allowing our world to become a much greener place in the near future.