For years, the United States has sent roughly one-third of its recycled materials overseas. Of that amount, approximately 50 percent went to China. Recently, though, China banned solid waste coming in from other countries. The ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, applies to material such as recycled bottles, and has left many local recyclers in the United States scrambling to keep up with the level of recyclable material people were bringing in.
Recycling is crucially important in reducing waste and reducing the amount of carbon emissions, which contributes to global warming. In fact, recycling 100 cans provides enough energy to power your bedroom lights for two weeks, rather than drawing on natural gas, coal or oil to generate the electricity.
The upshot of this situation is that we all need to rededicate ourselves to recycling material. Many states, such as New Jersey, have a recycling mandate. We need to know what we can recycle and where to send it.
Currently, just over one-third of Americans recycle. But evidence shows people are 20 percent more likely to recycle if they know their neighbors are doing it. If you recycle, not only does the planet benefit from your activities, but you can be a positive influence on others!
But to increase the amount we recycle, we must make it easy. First, we are very accustomed to tossing garbage and used-up containers, and out of sight is out of mind. Second, recycled material is, after all, garbage. It’s unpleasant to deal with unless there’s a simple process to follow.
Here’s how to make recycling in the home easier.
If your partner walks in the front door with the mail and a bin is right there to toss the junk mail in, that’s probably where it will end up. It’s as easy as throwing it in a wastepaper basket, which most people do. But put the recycling bin in another room, and the chances the junk mail will make it there sink much lower. Make recycling more convenient than throwing away trash.
Similarly, curbside pickup is much more convenient than occasionally taking your recycled material yourself to wherever your municipality has designated as the drop-off point. Many cities and other local authorities have set up curbside pickup. If you don’t currently have this, inquire about it.
Separate the different kinds of recycling you do by who picks it up, or where you have to drop it off. Putting all recyclables in one or two large bins and having to separate them later is time-consuming and can be unpleasant.
Most homes should have, at a minimum, one recycling bin for plastic, one for paper and one for aluminum. You may also want one for cardboard, especially if you receive a lot of packages. You can keep cardboard recycling in the garage — many people find cardboard easier to recycle than to throw away, even if they do have to walk an extra step or two.
If you have a family, hold a competition. Set aside one week and give everyone a garbage bin or sack. The person who fills it most wins a fun prize.
The beauty of the contest is that it makes clear how much stuff we can recycle, and how quickly it adds up. Because most people don’t spend a lot of time looking at their garbage or recycling bins, it’s easy to lose sight of how much waste we create.
Many a point to educate everybody in your household about how much of what we throw away can have a second life. If you have children, make crafts out of used toilet paper rolls and bottles containing household goods. Use newspapers and magazines for decoupage and even holiday ornaments.
For other family members, place signs that read, “Don’t throw me away” on the laptop, desktop and even your previous cell phones. To keep hazardous waste from leaching into the groundwater, recycle all old electronics once they’ve outlived their usefulness. You also need to recycle old, dead batteries that power the electronics.
If you have a garden or even a few indoor plants, compost is your friend. Kitchen garbage and yard waste — such as cut grass, pruned leaves and even dead stalks — can all form rich compost. In addition to reusing household waste, compost also can reduce your reliance on pesticides and fertilizer, both of which often contain harmful chemicals.
Children can especially be fascinated by how quickly garbage and yard leavings turn to compost. It’s a valuable lesson in chemistry and environmentalism! Be sure to draft them into service as you throw orange peels and spinach leaves into your compost pile.
Recycling is always important to help the environment and cut down on carbon emissions. Since Jan. 1, it’s been even more crucial, as China no longer accepts exports of solid waste from other countries. These five steps will make it easy to recycle in your home, which will increase the amount of recycling you do.
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