Reasons to recycle: the facts!

Recylce Now LogoRecycling 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 recycledrecycle logo 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!

Simple green tip: Ditch your disposable pen habit!

Fpen grnACT: Each year, in the United States alone, we discard and send 1.6 BILLION plastic disposable pens to landfills.  Take a look at what that number actually looks like:  1,600,000,000

Mind-boggling, isn’t it?  And it is believed that most components of those pens will never biodegrade either… (and the image just got uglier, didn’t it?)

The better solution?  Invest in a refillable pen. The refills are no more expensive than disposable pens and the waste they produce is substantially less.

The pen may be “mightier than the sword,” but the refillable pen is “mighty green”.

More recycling do’s and don’ts… answered.

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 alum cansrecyclable), 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.plstic bottles
  • 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!”

There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs!

storge bowlsI do NOT buy Ziploc baggies… ever. Okay, one exception:  when I had to buy them to complete our daughter’s list of “required” school supplies.  I wanted to wear dark glasses and a hood because I felt like I was going to be detained and questioned by the “Green Police” at any moment for abandoning my pledge to headquarters!

But I am currently also annoyed by “The Biggest Loser” and the way they keep pimping Ziplocs.  I understand product placements and the sponsorship, but it’s as if you can’t have food without them!  The incessant use of Ziplocs is unnecessary.

There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs and the non-biodegradable trash they create:

  • Reusable containers are a green mom’s best friend.  Invest in some!
  • For those concerned about the plastic, glass bowls with lids or stainless steel containers do wonders.  They come in all shapes and sizes!
  • Aluminum foil is recyclable and is great for wrapping tons of food items.  Buy a roll!ziplc storage
  • Salvage some glass jars and turn them into storage.  Reuse those plastic containers from yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. and do the same.
  • If you must, must, must use baggies, consider the new Ziploc evolve products.  They are made from a new resin blend using 25% less plastic, manufactured using approximately 50% renewable wind energy and packaged in a 100% recycled paperboard carton, with a minimum of 35% post-consumer content.  A step in the right direction, but if you must use them, wash and REuse them!

(I personally think that the new Ziploc evolve baggies are just a way to suck “greenies” like us back to their storage bags but like I said… “if you MUST…”…)

Bottom line is: there are better ways!  Try it… and let’s “bag the baggie!”

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?

garbage-ptchA few months ago, I wrote a post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).

It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

I certainly got my fair share of comments and emails.  Some readers were appalled (just like I am), while others were skeptical. One particularly fine gent emailed me and wanted to know why there weren’t pictures of this “plastic island” that everyone keeps raging about and why I’m making false statements.

Well, I first think he’s taking terms a bit too literal!  It’s not an actual island where you can dock your yacht, Mr. Crabby Pants!  This garbage patch is an AREA, where the vortex of ocean currents collects all of our discarded trash.   It’s that simple.  The ocean eventually breaks down the plastics into little bits and tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes for plankton (their primary food source). It floats on both the surface to 100 feet below the surface… so NO!  No “island”, but we shouldn’t falsely believe that this is not an issue.

Now, a new expedition to study the Garbage Patch, led by a group of University of California scientists, states that they found much more debris than they expected and are concerned that the “patch” may be much larger than originally thought.

It’s hard to imagine what we can do to prevent this… even experts don’t have the answers.  The only hope is to decrease our dependency on so many plastics, improve our recycling practices and simply change our overall behavior… and clean the mess that already exists.  We must find ways to decrease the plastic trash that reaches the oceans and waterways… period.

The most disturbing part?  There is said to be another patch in the southern hemisphere… and it’s four times larger.