November 15 is “America Recycles Day”… a day that “encourages more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment by recycling and buying recycled products” and “promotes the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling.”
Are you planning to celebrate?!?!
Once again this year, as the Recycling/Environmental Programs Chair at our children’s school, I’m promoting this great day by encouraging the kids to submit their best recycling tips and the favorite ways their families recycle. I’ll compile all of their great ideas and turn them into a recycling newsletter that will be sent home to each family. Some will even win cool prizes, like recycled drink pouch pencil bags and recycled newspaper pencils from Terracycle, reusable (yet recyclable!) BPA-free water bottles and 100% recycled content “green” notebooks! I don’t doubt that the response will be amazing… kids always have the best ideas!
So, as we celebrate the day, let’s remember WHY we recycle:
• to reduce pollution
• to save energy
• to help the environment
• to save natural resources
• to keep trash out of landfills
And here are some things to think about …
- PLASTIC– it can take 20 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade and 250 years for a plastic cup! Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour(!) but if every household recycled just one of every 10 plastic bottles, it would keep 200 million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year!
- PAPER – it accounts for nearly HALF of what is sent to landfills and approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.! Plus, recycling one ton of paper would save enough energy to power an average American home for five months!
- ALUMINUM – an aluminum can is recycled and back on a store shelf in approximately 60 days, and just one recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to run a computer for 3 hours. Last year cans that were NOT recycled and went to landfills were valued at $600 million!
- GLASS – a bottle in a landfill would take more than 4000 years to decompose, but glass never “wears out” and can be recycled forever! The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can power a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) for 20 hours.
Now is the time… TODAY is the day… let’s get to recycling! As you can see, it makes a world of difference!
Recycling in my home is a must. Everyone knows “the rules” and our set-up is simple, but if you’ve ever wondered about the wonder of recycling and if your efforts are well worth the effort, then take a look at these facts I discovered via Earth911 and you’ll see why it matters…
(… it matters… it really, really matters…)
- Aluminum cans – more than 50% of cans are recycled and once placed in a recycling receptacle, they are often back on store shelves as a “new can” within 60 days! Because of its durability (and the efforts of many), approximately two-thirds of aluminum ever produced is still in use today!
- Glass – it can be recycled indefinitely! 80% of recovered glass is turned into new glass containers with a turnaround time of about 30 days!
- Magazines – only 20% ever gets recycled. What a waste! They can’t be recycled into new magazine paper but they ARE recyclable – they get turned into newspaper, paperboard and writing paper.
- Newspaper – it’s incredibly easy to recycle and the 24 billion newspapers circulated worldwide annually(!) can be recycled right back into another edition to hit the newsstand!
- Plastic bottles – only 2 out of every 10 plastic water bottles is recycled… and Americans buy about 28 billion water bottles each year. The interesting thing is that 96% of plastic bottles produced are “recycle #1 and #2”… and these are absolutely recycled everywhere!!!
- Paper – approximately 40% of solid waste in the US is paper products! I wrote a post dedicated to all the things you need to know about paper recycling (since it seems to be the one with the greatest potential for confusion!), so check it out here! But without question, RECYCLE IT!
I honestly think that NOT recycling is inexcusable. An estimated 75% of Americans have curbside recycling and most of the remaining majority has at least some access to a recycling facility.
If you ever doubted your recycling efforts… don’t. If you ever thought about short-cutting recycling… don’t. If you haven’t started a dedicated recycling effort at home… DO!
An essential part of maintaining good health is doing plenty of cooking at home, so we can control and select our own ingredients and food choices. But what cook doesn’t love their collection of non-stick cookware? Well, what if I told you those conveniences can be hazardous to our health?
(This is the part where we all sigh and our shoulders droop a little, I know!)
I just learned that non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot. Yes, throw another log on the “disappointment fire”! It seems these aluminum pans, coated in Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE (also known as Teflon), can emit fumes when subjected to high heat. Inhaling these fumes can actually cause flu-like symptoms. And although the long-term effects haven’t been extensively studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, elevated cholesterol levels, as well as weakened immune systems.
(A few years ago I remember one of my non-stick pans starting to flake away. I tossed it out but, surprisingly, the flakes are actually inert.)
The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven. Cast iron is another safe choice. Unless you’re willing to replace all of your non-stick cookware, you can feel a little “stuck”, but there are guidelines (compliments of EWG) to lessen your exposure:
- Cook at lower temperatures and don’t pre-heat your pans at high temps. It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it.
- Never bake at over 500 degrees (some research even says not over 450 degrees).
- Use your exhaust fan.
- (A little side note too: these fumes are highly toxic to birds, so keep your feathered friends far from the kitchen.)
If you’re like me, you’re probably not inclined or prepared to replace all of your non-stick cookware, but just use these tips to play it safe and the next time you’re in a position to buy replacements, make the wiser choices … and then invest in some good scrubbers!
I received a great response to my recent post about recycling paper. Recycling always seems to be a great mystery, as so many cities and municipalities have varying rules. When you consider that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash DAILY (75% of that IS recyclable), we certainly want to make the right decisions.
It’s often hard to compile a “grand list” of everything you can and cannot do, but the best resource I can provide is earth911. Simply enter your area code on the homepage and you will (hopefully) find your city or recycling resource to answer specific questions.
But, in the broad sense, I hope to help dispel some myths about the “real” answers for recycling… some may be a big surprise…
- Paper – refer to my prior post… I think I covered it all!
- Glass – rinse out the original contents as best you can. Don’t worry about labels since they’ll be removed in processing. You CAN recycle the metal caps(!)… most recyclers will accept them. Do NOT attempt to recycle treated glass, like plates, drinking glasses, windows, etc. This glass is, unfortunately, contaminated due to the special “treatment” they have received.
- Metals – every can should be hitting the recycling can! Soup, soda, veggie cans (even the top you’ve removed)… they’re all recyclable. Even wire coat hangers, aluminum foil, pie tins… include them all! And a new revelation to me… aerosol cans, as long as they have not contained a hazardous waste. I sincerely never knew they could be recycled, but just be sure they are EMPTY. That is the key. If your recycler does not accept them, they will be quickly weeded-out, but it’s worth a try!
- Plastic – most plastic bottles and jugs (with necks narrower than the body) can be recycled, just be sure to remove the plastic caps. They are a different type of plastic and can cause contamination in the recycling process. Number 5 plastics are often questionable. This is one where you should definitely refer to your local recycler, but remember that there is a use for Number 5’s!… don’t count them out and send them to the trash can too quickly! They are also good candidates for the reuse category, although maybe not for food items, due to the plastic-leaching issues.
Take these tips, memorize them and soon your 75% of daily trash will find its way to the proper destination… the cherished land of “Recycleville!”