Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new materials and objects. The practice of reducing waste and recycling benefits the environment and the economy in a variety of ways.
As stated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and decreases the need to extract raw materials from the Earth through mining and forestry. Although recycling is costly and takes energy, more people agree that recycling benefits the environment, even if it isn’t a perfect solution to every environmental problem.
What Can & Cannot be Recycled
While most American want to recycle and benefit the environment, recycling can turn into a very confusing task that includes a never-ending list of what materials can and cannot be recycled. The three general guidelines for recycling by Ecoscarps simplify the process by explaining that bottles, cans and paper products should be recycled, items should be kept relatively clean and plastic bags should never be mixed with the rest of the recycled items.
Items that can be recycled are rigid plastics, including any plastic bottle or container; paper and carboard objects such as cereal boxes, magazines, mail, office paper and newspapers; metals along with with tin, aluminum and steel cans; and glass objects like food containers or jars, soft drink and beer bottles, and wine and liquor bottles.
Items that cannot be recycled include loose plastic bags, polystyrene foam cups or packaging such as egg cartons, take out containers or drinking cups; soiled food items including food dirty containers and dirty paper products; and broken or sharp glass, fast food packaging and plastic utensils.
How to Recycle & Reuse
Recycling options will vary depending on the geographical location and the service provider in the area. While it may be easier and more accessible for some, the garbage and recycling service Arrowaste lists six simple steps everyone can take to reduce waste around the home. As stated on their website, the first option is to reduce is to reuse. Instead of using plastic bags, bring reusable bags and containers when going shopping or packing food. A second option is to shop responsibly by purchasing items that are easy to recycle. Avoid items that are individually wrapped or in single servings. Third, composting is your friend. Create a compost bin and throw food scraps and various yard waste into a compost bin. The fourth step is to go paperless. Most stores now offer digital versions of receipts, and consumers can also receive bills online or on smart devices rather than in the mail. Finally, start buying second-hand and start recycling.
When recycling, break down cardboard boxes as it makes them easier to process and leaves more room for other recyclables and remove paper or plastic labels from cans and clean out any residual materials. Never bag or bundle recyclables as items should be places in the recycling bin individually. However, keep in mind some service providers allow people to put all the recycling (except glass and plastic bags) into one bin.
Most communities will have drop off locations specifically for plastic bags, while others may support local food waste recycling which can be turned into sustainable gardening soil. To get a better idea of what is available in your area, see here.
Does recycling cost me money?
It depends on the state you live in, but some may even pay its residents for recycling. For example, Arkansas residents are eligible for a 30% state income tax credit for buying equipment that is used only for collecting, separating, processing, modifying, converting, or treating solid waste. Californians get a 5¢ refund for containers under 24 oz. or under and 10¢ for any above or equal to 24oz. Florida has created a trust fund, at least 40% of which should be used for recycling and waste reduction. The money is distributed evenly among small counties with populations of fewer than 100,000 people. For more information, see here.
Does recycling benefit the economy?
Yes, the recycling industry creates jobs and helps the local economy. The study, “More Jobs, Less Pollution” shows that a 75% national recycling rate would create nearly 2.3 million jobs while reducing pollution by 2030.
Does recycling benefit my business?
Yes, as recycling reduces waste, businesses can save on their waste management fees. Businesses can also save on new purchases, some retailers will take back old computers, smartphones and other tech devices and recycle them in exchange for a small discount when buying new ones. Additional business benefits include grant opportunities with non-profits and government agencies that provide incentives for businesses with recycling programs and a better overall public image.
What recycling options and services are available in my area?
- To get a better idea of what is available in your area check out this website.
- If you’re interested in recycling your own food waste check out this article.
Here are a few websites that go into more detail of what can and cannot be recycled: