Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. The first two of those three Rs are key as you limit the amount of packaging you consume and then throw away. But if you've ever tried to go completely waste-free – that's no cardboard, plastics or other packaging- you'll know it's pretty hard. (Although, if you'd like to give it a go, do check out this 31-day challenge here.)
And while it's still important to reduce and re-use, the realities of everyday life mean that you’re likely to have some waste going into the bin. And here’s where the final R comes in.
According to EPA data, the United States recycling rate has been idling around 35% since 2010 and the aftermath of China’s waste ban has only created more obstacles along the country’s journey towards a circular economy. As the cost of recycling begins to increase, many municipalities have chosen to cease operations altogether. As an alternative more recycled goods are being burned, leading to the release of more carbon emissions.
In light of these events, recycling is more important than ever, and the comforting prospect is that 92% of younger generations, ages 18-34, are in agreement.
The best way to ensure recycling’s future is to engage in these practices at home.
Here’s how to get started
What can be recycled
Often the most confusing part of the recycling process is knowing what can and can’t be recycled. For example, not all plastics and paper can be used again. The EPA has compiled a list of the most common recyclables including;
• Used Oil
• Household Hazardous Waste
Here they discuss the best option for recycling these items and specify which types of these items cannot be recycled.
Once you’ve decided which, or all, of these categories you are going to start recycling, identify a space and container to store them in. Things to think about include finding containers that can easily be transported and taken to a waste drop off point if you have no at-home collection, and making sure that bins have lids to avoid attracting pests. Most importantly, you need to find an easy way to integrate sorting and storing into your daily routine to get into the habit of recycling at home. Lastly, remember to wash any dirty packaging before recycling.
How to dispose of your recycling
At this time, recycling is not federally mandated in the United States. Fortunately, there are recycling databases, like Recycle Nation, that you can use as a resource to find local drop off points for different types of materials. If you choose to recycle more regularly, you can sign up with a weekly residential waste and recycling pickup service, through providers such as Waste Management. They can also assist those recycling large, one-time items. Lastly, don’t forget that donating is also a form of recycling, and one that is highly encouraged. If you are planning to recycle items that still have some life in them, please consider reaching out to local shelters that may be in need.
Some useful links for finding recycling resources near you
General: Recycle Nation
Collections Service: Waste Management
Authorized Drug Disposal sites can be found via the DEA.