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Recycling is traditionally broken down into 3-R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Now, included in the steps of recycling is Rot, which makes it the 4-R’s of recycling. Recycling doesn’t begin at the recycling bin, nor does it end in the recycling bin.
If you are determined to do the right thing, you have to adjust your mind set to start thinking recycling. We have to change from the old model of trash to the new model of the material cycle. In recycling there is a flow of materials. Moving from the product you consume back to new products, the flow of materials is key to understating recycling (hence the chasing arrows on the recycling symbol).
This is the first step to recycling. Similar to precycling, it is the process of using less after you have purchased a product. A good rule of thumb is the Halving Principle. It is simply trying to make do with half of what you normally use. Try using half the shampoo or toothpaste and see how much you really need.
If you can reuse something, why are you throwing it out? If you can’t come up with something to use it for, give it to someone else who can use it. Perhaps the item is no longer usable for its normal function, but have you thought about new uses? Try reusing your old toothbrush to clean with for example.
Most people understand this one already. Separate your materials, and take them to one of the drop-off centers listed.
Another term for composting.
Most recyclable or recycled products have a symbol to help identify them as such. Watch for the following symbols when you are shopping or about to throw something away. Note that buying recycled products helps complete the recycling loop, so watch for those products.
These two symbols are the original representation for a product that can be recycled. When marked with one of the symbols, products, containers, or packaging materials are referred to as recyclable products or products that are able to be recycled.
A product marked with either symbol can be recycled if the regulations and/or ordinances of the local community provide for its collection.
This is a modified recyclable symbol. A container or package marked with this means it was made with
recycled material. Often there is additional information, such as “Printed on Recycled Paper”.
This symbol represents Partially Recycled Content. The percent on this recycled symbol indicates how much of the product is made from recycled materials.
According to the most recent information released by the EPA, the U.S. is generating 251.3 million tons of waste each year. That is an average of 4.6 pounds of garbage per person per day. Only 32% of that waste is being reclaimed through recycling and composting. This means that over 70% of our 251.3 million tons is being buried or burned.
These are a several statistics that do not translate well into normal conversation. To help you better understand the impact of 4.6 pounds per person per day, imagine that if we were to take Tennessee’s
waste alone; we could fill Neyland Stadium to the brim every two weeks. In Knoxville we bury our waste in a landfill. A modern landfill is basically a tomb for our waste. They are lined with clay and plastic, and water is kept out. This means that even biodegradable materials such as banana peels and paper struggle to
Most people think of landfills and trash as free and recycling as a costly addition. This is simply not true. The average cost for a municipality to use a landfill is $25-$35 per ton. The cost does not include the costs to pick it up either.
Recycling creates jobs and industry in addition to sparing our natural resources. We have to do everything in our power to reduce our waste and increase our recycling efforts.
Management of waste is a real problem, and landfills and recycling are not solutions. Recycling and landfills are only tools, some more advantageous than others. The real solution is people. We can fix our waste problem, and we need to seek out the best tools possible. The waste problem starts with us, and it is time it ends with us.
>> We throw away 250 million tons of trash each year.
>> Over 30% of that waste is containers and packaging.
>> The 32% of material that is recycled is the energy equivalent of more than 10 billion gallons of gas.
>> Unwanted mail accounts for nearly 40% of recycled paper.
>> Non-durable goods make up 25% of our waste. This includes everything labeled disposable.
Everyone has heard of the 3-R’s of recycling, but few people are familiar with the principle of Precycling. However, it is a crucial step in creating a sustainable community.
Precycling is a mind set more than it is a process. It is sometime referred to as Source Reduction, but, regardless of the fancy term, it is the same idea. Precycling takes place before you buy an item. In order to reduce waste production, why not eliminate the problem at the source? It differs from Reducing because this happens before you purchase.
Precycling is not as complicated as it sounds. It can be as simple as buying the value brand cereal, because it is in a plastic bag rather than the brand name stuff that is in both a box and a bag.
It can help you save money as well! Don’t be fooled. Manufacturers are adding the cost of packaging to the price of the product. This is why value or bulk products often don’t have the fancy package. They’re saving you money and reducing the waste.
The next time you are at the grocery store, stop and think about what you are buying. Are you going to use all of the product? How are you going to dispose of the packaging? Can you buy bulk and not risk it spoiling? What went into producing this product, and was there a lot of waste in its production?
Some quick tips to get you started thinking:
>> Buy in Bulk (ie. the biggest package available according to your needs)
>> Reduce the Packaging – look for items that aren’t individually wrapped
>> Buy durable and repairable products
>> Avoid anything labeled disposable or single-use
>> Avoid biodegradable products if it is going to the landfill – modern landfills do not allow the products to break down as it would with composting
>> Try borrowing or sharing seldom used tools rather than buying new