An article about the challenges of managing recyclables appeared in our local newspaper recently. It made me start rethinking the virtues of the whole recycling idea. The article pointed out that more recyclables on the market means declining prices, and it becomes less cost effective for someone to come around to our small towns and haul the stuff away.
It made me aware of some things I hadn’t considered before, mainly that it takes money and fuel to haul recyclables away and to recycle them into new materials. It’s still better than throwing it all in the landfill, but we need to do even better still. We need to focus more on the reduce and reuse sides of that triangle symbol.
I have been proud of the fact that in our household of two, it takes us at least a month and often longer to fill up a kitchen trash basket with stuff for the landfill because we recycle everything we can. But the bins of stuff we send to the recycling center now seems too much. So my current project is to look at what we recycle and how we can change it into reduce or reuse.
This is what we already do:
- Take reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery store. Change: try to remember to use them for other types of shopping as well.
- Reuse those plastic produce bags. After use, we wash them out, and we keep a bag of them in the car with the cloth shopping bags.
- Buy from the bulk foods section. We buy a lot of groceries this way, but I think we could do more. This is where reusing those plastic produce bags comes in handy. Even better: bring plastic and glass storage containers from home. We do this some, could do it more.
- Make yogurt at home. We consume a lot of yogurt and at one point had an enormous collection of empty plastic yogurt containers. I started making it at home as a moneysaving measure, since homemade costs a quarter of the price of the locally-made, additive free brand that we like. I make it with local milk that comes in returnable glass bottles.
- Shop at thrift stores. This is where I get most of my clothes, and occasionally other useful things as well.
The next step is to pay attention to exactly what goes into our recycling bin. I know one thing is the boxes and packaging from online shopping. Theoretically, it all could be reused, if only mailing packages were a frequent activity of ours.
This is what I’ve come up with so far. Please share any suggestions and things that have worked for you.